Israeli news outlets that hailed a “diplomatic breakthrough” with Saudi Arabia, allowing flyover rights for Air India on a New Dehli-Tel Aviv route, were reporting Riyadh’s denial hours later on Wednesday.
It was not a retraction, however. Rather, as Globes portrayed it, the initial reports were accurate; but the Saudis changed their minds.
An Israeli government source was quoted as saying that he believed the Saudi authorities had indeed given Air India permission, but then “took fright when the story was picked up by the international media.”
Whatever actually transpired between Riyadh and Delhi, by the end of the day a spokesman for Saudi’s General Authority of Civil Aviation told Reuters that the agency had not granted any permission to Air India. It was confirmed, though, that such a request had been made. Flying over Saudi Arabia would reduce travel time by two hours.
Air India is due to launch flights three times a week between Tel Aviv and New Delhi from March 20. The Israeli government is paying Air India a €750,000 grant to operate the flights.