On March 28, Al airline filed a lawsuit against its own Israel government and does not share its enthusiasm for the manner in which the government is tweaking its policies to attract Air India to commence recent operations on its Tel Aviv – Delhi route.
In a historic and unprecedented move, on March 22, 2018, Air India’s flight AI 139 flew its inaugural flight on this route, departing Tel Aviv, Israel, for New Delhi, India, at 2:30 pm, flying over Saudi Arabia and Oman. Both states do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The airline received unique permission to fly over Saudi Arabia air space.
For the past 70 years, Saudi Arabia has not had diplomatic relations with Israel and has prohibited the use of its air space to all aircraft headed for Israel, which means flight paths had to navigate an alternate route. This increased flying time by two hours, resulting in higher fuel costs and ticket prices.
In a surprise move, the government of Saudi Arabia dropped its objections for this Air India flight, although similar facilities are not available to El Al. This is a sign of changing equations between once traditional enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, likely to counter the geopolitical emergence of the growing domination of Iran.
El Al claims this is seriously damaging as it gives an unfair competitive marketing advantage to Air India, and it, therefore, wants the same conditions to be available to its airline. The Israeli government also gave a one-time financial grant of 750,000 euros to Air India for operating thrice weekly on this route .
El Al’s President and CEO, Gonen Usishkin, along with Chairman Eli Defes said at a press conference that allowing this route to fly over Saudi air space, which does not grant El Al Airlines the same rights, violates its commitment to Israel’s national carrier. Even though Saudi Arabia granted permission for the route, El Al is asking the Israeli court to prevent Air India from taking the shorter path unless the Israeli carrier receives a similar permit.