Last May, Air India announced plans to launch a three-times weekly non-stop flight to Tel Aviv from the Indian capital, Delhi, using its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. However, the airline has begun to re-evaluate its options after being denied the ability to route its aircraft over certain Middle Eastern countries on the way to Tel Aviv, and the airline is reportedly exploring beginning flights from Mumbai as an alternative.
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Afghanistan have denied Air India overfly rights for flights en route to Israel. These countries do not officially recognize Israel as a country, and therefore commonly deny Israeli planes from overflying their airspace. Airlines wishing to fly to Tel Aviv and other Israeli destinations from Asia are forced to fly through Central Asia, then head South, or fly around through the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, and finally towards Israel.
For Air India, the detour for the Delhi to Tel Aviv would increase the flying time to almost nine and a half hours, while a direct route would take around five and a half hours. While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that “direct flights would be launched between Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv” back in July on a state visit to Israel, an Air India spokesperson speaking on the issue said that these restrictions are making “the operations commercially unviable”, leaving the expansion plan up in the air.
The airline is now considering starting flights from Mumbai to Tel Aviv, “which would cut down the nine and a half hours route to a seven and a half hour route” according to an Air India spokesperson. Currently, El Al Israel Airlines operates thrice-weekly between the two cities, using its Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. The airline is aiming to cater towards business and leisure travelers in both markets.
Air India has been expanding its international network rapidly, as it received its 27th and last Boeing 787 Dreamliner earlier this year. The airline has started operations to fourteen new international destinations over the past four years, with the latest destination being Copenhagen.
Featured image by the author.