El Al Gains New Route Flexibility With Access To Saudi Airspace

Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace to Israeli airlines.

Credit: Joe Pries

El Al Israel Airlines said the ability to fly through Saudi Arabia’s airspace shortens existing routes and opens up new route opportunities. 

For example, El Al flights from Tel Aviv (TLV) to Mumbai (BOM) take 7 hr. 45 min., as the Israeli airline detours around Saudi airspace. But flying through Saudi airspace will shorten the flight time to approximately 5 hr. and 15 min. Flight time from TLV to Bangkok (BKK) shortens from 11 hr. to approximately 8 hr. and 30 min. 

El Al welcomed the announcement this month from the Saudi government that it is opening its airspace to all carriers; previously the Israeli flag carrier was not able to enter Saudi airspace. 

The airline said that, in addition to shortening existing routes, “it is also an opportunity for us to grow and reach new, exciting destinations, including to our friends in Australia.”

El Al CEO Dina Ben-Tal Ganancia said during a tourism conference in Tel Aviv that the carrier plans to launch nonstop flights to Melbourne (MEL). In addition, she said the carrier is eying flights to Tokyo Narita (NRT). 

Those routes were originally announced in 2019 before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but were never launched as El Al shut down commercial passenger flights for six months in 2020. Flights from TLV to MEL will take approximately 15 hr. via Saudi airspace.

El Al believes it will be better positioned to compete with other Middle East airlines with the greater route flexibility it gains via the use of Saudi airspace.

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