El Al Israel Airlines asked the global aviation regulator to help it secure rights to fly over Saudi Arabia, which would reduce flight times and costs for the Israeli carrier.
Saudi Arabia would violate United Nations-sanctioned regulations should it allow Indian planes en route to Israel to fly over its airspace without granting the same access to Israeli carriers, Chief Executive Officer Gonen Usishkin wrote in a letter addressed to Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, president of the International Civil Aviation Organization, that was obtained by Bloomberg News.
The one-sided approval would be discriminatory on the part of Saudi authorities, who would not reciprocate the access to El Al “solely” because it’s “an Israeli airline,” Usishkin said. Israel has no official relations with many of its Middle East neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.
Ushishkin requested that the ICAO “take action in accordance with its authority and responsibilities vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia, to procure permission for El Al to fly above Saudi Arabia,” Usishkin said.
Though a direct route over Saudi Arabia would be a boon for tourism and trade between Israel and India, El Al could suffer as a result. Air India Ltd. is expected to begin flights to Tel Aviv next week, Usishkin wrote, after receiving landing rights from the Israel Airports Authority. That would be an “unfair advantage over El Al,” which operates direct flights that take a circuitous and therefore more costly route.
Usishkin previously turned to the International Air Transport Association to help El Al gain access to Saudi Arabian airspace, Reuters reported last week, though IATA lacks the authority to penalize countries for violating global regulations.
A spokesman for El Al declined to comment. The General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment, nor did spokesmen for the ICAO.
–With assistance from Sarah Algethami
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.