Israeli airline expects approval for Oman overflights 'within days'
Permission for El Al Israel Airlines to fly over Oman is expected in "a matter of days", chief executive Dina Ben-Tal said on Thursday, a move that would be a big boost for the Israeli airline's Asian routes.
Ben-Tal, speaking to reporters after El Al issued second-quarter results, said the airline had already received approval to fly over Saudi Arabia but also needed to fly over Oman to avoid Iran and save time for journeys to Asia.
Last month, Saudi Arabia said it would open its airspace to all air carriers. El Al and smaller Israeli rival Arkia later said they had applied for permission to fly over both Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Opening Saudi airspace to flights to and from Israel was a focus of US President Joe Biden's tour last month of the countries, which do not have formal ties.
"It's not just Saudi Arabia. We need the full route to be approved," Ben-Tal said.
Once fully approved, it would cut about 2-1/2 hours from Israeli flights to India and Thailand and save fuel costs. Present routes to those destinations bypass Saudi airspace by flying south over the Red Sea around Yemen.
"We are planning to reschedule our network around that new (shorter) route," Ben-Tal said, adding El Al was also looking into new non-stop routes to destinations such as Australia. "It definitely will have a huge efficiency (benefit) around our network."
Saudi Arabia allows Israeli carriers to overfly its territory on flights to and from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain after the two Gulf states established ties with Israel in 2020.