Air Seychelles Becomes First Airline to Fly From Israel Over Saudi Arabia

An Air Seychelles Airbus A330. (Pvalmont)

Air Seychelles announced Wednesday that it became the first airline to receive approval for flights over Saudi Arabia en route from Israel.

The first flight from Tel Aviv to the island country of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean took off Wednesday from Ben Gurion International Airport and crossed over Jordanian and Saudi airspace, according to the airline’s press release.

Air Seychelles operates three weekly direct flights between Tel Aviv and Mahe, the capital of the Republic of Seychelles. It was previously forced to fly over international waters, taking an indirect route at suboptimal altitude. The flights are carried out using an Airbus A320neo.

“We are happy about the change in Saudi policy and the effect it has on the route between the two countries. The fact that the flight can take a more direct route and at a higher altitude means a reduction in fuel burn,” Charles Johnson, CCO of Air Seychelles, was quoted as saying.

Apart from the environmental advantage, the new route “will allow us to carry up to 20 more passengers on each flight,” Johnson added.

The airline is the first to obtain Saudi approval to operate flights from Israel over Saudi airspace not destined for the Emirates. Earlier in July, El Al submitted an official request to Saudi Arabia’s aviation authorities to pass through the Gulf state’s airspace. Riyadh repeatedly stressed that the move to open its skies was not a step toward normalization of relations with Israel.

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