THINK TANK: SENIOR
Permission to fly over Saudi Arabia would cut the journey time in half and could set a precedent for the Israeli airline's routes to the east.
El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) is seeking a double-historical firm tomorrow when it flies the first-ever commercial flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. It also hopes that it will be the first-ever Israeli airline to fly over Saudi Arabia.
El Al has submitted an official application to the Saudi authorities to fly over their airspace en route between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. An Israeli government official told "Globes" that the expectations is that the request will be approved and that in the past the Saudis had approved 'unofficial' flights between Israel and the UAE over their airspace.
Crossing Saudi airspace significantly shortens the flight between Israel and the UAE and in the case of tomorrow's flight it is a necessity. For security reasons, the flight tomorrow will take place in a narrow-bodied Boeing 737-900, which are designed for short-haul flights, rather than a wide-bodied Dreamliner. According to the El Al Pilots Association, flying over Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi from Tel Aviv would take three hours while skirting around the peninsula and Yemen could take as long as eight hours, which is on the margins of the 737-900's capabilities. If the Saudis do not approve the flight, El Al would have to reconsider which aircraft to send.
El Al is hoping that approval to fly over Saudi Arabia will provide a breakthrough on its future flights to East Asia. El Al was peeved several years ago when Air India was given permission to fly over Saudi Arabia on its Delhi-Tel Aviv route while no such approval was forthcoming for the Israeli carrier's Tel Aviv - Mumbai route, which El Al complained put it at a serious disadvantage in competing with rivals on routes from Tel Aviv eastwards.