Middle Eastern diplomacy: Aviation edition

Earlier today Air India operated a new service, connecting Delhi and Tel Aviv. Flying between those two airports is not historic – the route competes with El Al service – but the path the plane took is. For the first time in 70 years Saudi air traffic controllers permitted overflight of an aircraft headed to Israel.

Getting to this point is something of a diplomacy master stroke. El Al cannot fly the shorter routing despite years of pushing for such through third parties. But Air India managed to pull it off. It was uncertain that the approval would ultimately be granted, with conflicting reports over the status up until earlier this month.

The bigger question now is will that recognition spread to other industries and organizations. Too early to say for sure, but getting even this far is impressive progress in a region where such developments are all too rare.

Then again, maybe Saudi Arabia just has a “one in, one out” policy and is letting Israel swap in for Qatar now that the latter is blocked  from flying to, from or over Saudi airspace. But probably not, right??

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Please note the news on the macro level: Crown Prince MBS is touring the U.S. His Egypt-UK-US show tour is aimed to improve Saudia Arabia’s image and help advance MBS’s 2030 plan. So, coincidence? Think not. Please note that MBS is visiting Wall Street, Silicon Valley among other places. He is also working closely with Jared Kushner. There are no coincidences in the world at this level. The Air India overflight was meant as a signal. Saudi is open for business.

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