It Is Done! Air India Makes History As First India-Israel Flight Through Saudi Airspace Lands In Tel AvivAI Flight 139 welcomed at the Tel Aviv airport. (picture via Twitter)

India-Israel-Saudi Arabia recorded a momentous first in their relationship as the first Air India flight flying over Saudi airspace marked its landing in Israeli capital of Tel Aviv yesterday (22 March) night.

The flight a major diplomatic victory for the three countries as it is the first time a direct flight to Israel was granted permission to fly over Saudi airspace.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise the Israeli state, and hence does not allow flights in and out of Israel to pass over its territory. But an exception was made for Air India which will now be operating the flight thrice every week, very Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

"This is really a historical moment. We are in a new era. I am sure that we will see many more Indian tourists coming to Israel, and Israelis would also come to India in much higher numbers," said Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, speaking to PTI.

Although this is not the first direct flight between the countries, the only other flight takes a much longer route bypassing Saudi airspace and hence takes 2 hours longer for the journey. It is operated by the Israeli national carrier El Al which is also now vying for a similar route to India.

The Air India flight AI 139, for which the national carrier deployed its 256 seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed in Tel Aviv at midnight. It was welcomed at the airport on arrival.

The move represents a major shift in Middle-east diplomacy and also underlines India’s growing role in it.

"We have to very cautious. This is really a first step - a very important one. I hope with times we have more and more normal relation with our neighbour in this region. India played a very important bridge (by introducing this flight over Saudi airspace) not only between India and us but also between Israel and other countries in this region," Levin added.

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