Dr Mike Evans

Israel flies over Saudi airspace to non-Gulf location in historic first

The first Israeli commercial plane flew over Saudi airspace on Tuesday, shortening its current flight time by 20 minutes.

Arkia Airlines flight IZ611 left Ben Gurion Airport before flying over Saudi Arabia en route to the Republic of Seychelles off the coast of East Africa.

“Tonight, an Arkia plane will become the first Israeli licensed plane to fly over Saudi Arabia — not to Dubai, but to the Seychelles,” the airline’s pilot Din Gal said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel.

“The route will go through Jordan in the area of the Dead Sea and turn left to Petra, continuing along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea shores. From there, it will continue on its regular route through Eritrea…We soon hope to see shorter flights to India and Sri Lanka,” he added.

The flight occurred weeks after the agreement was made during President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East which included stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia in July.

The action is also part of a growing list of expanded efforts since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020. Though Saudi Arabia was not part of the agreement, the move has provided a warmer welcome to some of Israel’s other neighbors in the Middle East.

Israel is hopeful that Oman will open up its airspace in a similar agreement. The additional move would allow a reduction of flight time of two to four hours for some international flights.

The agreement could also cut airline ticket prices for consumers. The shortened routes would decrease airtime and fuel usage, allowing for lower costs and less environmental impact.

Some reports have suggested that Oman is being pressured by Iran not to approve the use of its airspace by Israel.