1st Israeli plane flies over Saudi Arabia to non-Gulf destination


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An Arkia flight takes off from Ben Gurion International Airport, central Israel, October 25, 2021.
Yossi Aloni/FLASH90An Arkia flight takes off from Ben Gurion International Airport, central Israel, October 25, 2021.

Arkia flight to Seychelles departed shortly after midnight Tuesday, flying along Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast

An Israeli carrier for the first time flew over Saudi Arabia on its way to a non-Gulf destination.

Arkia Airlines flight IZ611 departed Ben Gurion Airport after midnight on Tuesday en route to the island country of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, flying along Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast.

The flight was shortened by 20 minutes.

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Since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, Saudi Arabia has allowed Israeli airlines to use its airspace for direct flights to and from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain - the first two countries to normalize relations with Israel as part of the US-brokered pact, with the later additions of Morocco and Sudan.

During US President Joe Biden's visit to the region last month, Riyadh announced the opening of its airspace to all flights as part of an agreement to transfer a pair of Red Sea islands from Egypt to the Saudis that was brokered by the US.

“Tonight, an Arkia plane will become the first Israeli licensed plane to fly over Saudi Arabia — not to Dubai, but to the Seychelles," Arkia's chief pilot Din Gal said before the flight.

"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.”

Earlier this month, Air Seychelles announced it became the first airline to receive approval for flights over Saudi Arabia en route from Israel, with the first flight that crossed Saudi airspace taking off on August 3.

It was hoped that Oman would follow Saudi Arabia in opening its airspace to Israeli flights, which would reduce travel time to Asian destinations by hours. But Hebrew media reported that Muscat is thus far refusing to allow Israeli flights to pass over Oman, reportedly under intense pressure from Iran.

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