Washington/Tel Aviv: Saudi Arabia has given Air India approval to fly to Israel through its airspace which would shorten the flight path by some two hours, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.
"Air India signed an agreement today to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia," the Israeli premier said on Monday during a briefing at the Blair House in Washington, DC.
He said that the flight to and from India would take the same time as flights between London and Tel Aviv, some five and a half hours.
But hours later on Tuesday, India's flagship airline said it is yet to receive approval for a direct flight to Israel over Saudi airspace.
"We have not received any confirmation. We have only submitted our request for a flight. We have yet to receive anything from authorities," Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told The Times of Israel.
"We are hopeful to get approval soon," said Bhatnagar. Saudi Arabia has also not commented on the report.
In February, reports citing Israeli officials claimed an agreement had been reached, but the claim was swiftly denied by Riyadh, which has never recognised Israel.
During his visit in January, Netanyahu had told business leaders in India that an "efficient and direct route" between the countries was an important goal. Currently, El Al is the only airline offering direct flights from Israel to India, with a Tel Aviv-Mumbai route. In order to avoid Saudi Arabia, which has hitherto forbidden flights to and from Israel over its airspace, the plane must detour over the Red Sea and around the Arabian peninsula, adding over two hours to the journey. Israel's largest airline has appealed to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), requesting the body's help in obtaining permission to access Saudi Arabia's airspace for a direct flight to India, reports earlier have said. UNI