The connectivity between India and Israel will influence the bilateral relationship and help in increasing the tourist flow on both the sides, India’s Ambassador to Israel has said. Pavan Kapoor’s remarks came as Indian national carrier Air India celebrated its one year of operations on the Tel Aviv-Delhi sector. The sector is considered a major diplomatic breakthrough given that the flights use Saudi and Omani airspace, registering an impressive growth with average seat occupancy around eighty per cent making it one of the most lucrative sector.
Air India’s staff and the crew celebrated the completion of one year of operations on the route with passengers travelling to Delhi on Monday night at an event organised here at the airport just before the flight took off at 10:35 PM. “It was a long journey with lots of ups and downs. Lots of interesting history which shall be written at some point but it was a sort of fascinating effort when we had the first flight arrive here on March 22nd last year,” Kapoor said.
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“It was really a special event and we were glad to be a part of civil aviation history for Israel, I think the first civilian aircraft to arrive at Tel Aviv airport flying over Saudi airspace”, he said at the ceremony. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and Oman. The permission given to Air India by the two Gulf countries to use their airspace to fly into Tel Aviv has often been presented by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a big success story of his leadership.
“The connectivity between India and Israel will influence the relationship, something that I strongly believe in. We have seen more tourists on both sides, we have seen more business persons and we are pushing for more and more Israelis to travel to India. If Indians come here we are happy about it too. The Israeli tourist’s Indian experience starts here when they enter Air India”, Kapoor said.
Officials in Israel also reminisced the long and difficult path to this success story which also included objections from Israel’s national carrier El Al that filed a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court against the permission given to Air India on grounds of “unfair competition”.
El Al later withdrew the petition. The access to Saudi and Omani airspace shortens the flight path by almost two hours lowering significantly the fuel cost which can be transferred on to the passengers. “The launch of Air India flights between Tel Aviv and Delhi was an outcome of mutual efforts. It has contributed in significant increase in tourist inflows from India to Israel. We have seen a 13 pe rcent increase in tourists coming from India during the first quarter of this year and almost 30 per cent compared to two years ago”, Israeli Tourism Ministry’s Director general, Amir Halevi, told PTI.