Saudi civil aviation authority denies allowing Air India to fly over Saudi Arabia on planned Israel route

Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority denied granting permission to Indian planes to use the kingdom’s airspace to cross into Israel. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Saudi civil aviation authority denies allowing Air India to fly over Saudi Arabia on planned Israel route

JERUSALEM/NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority on Wednesday denied granting permission to Indian planes to use the kingdom’s airspace to cross into Israel.
A spokesman for the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia that the Authority did not grant any permission to fly India, Al Arabiya television reported.
Air India said on Wednesday it plans to begin direct flights to Israel and has proposed they pass through Saudi airspace, a route so far off-limits to Israel-bound commercial planes.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban would reflect what appears to be thawing ties between Israel and the kingdom, both US allies with a shared concern over Iranian influence in the region.
An Air India spokesman and Israel’s Airports Authority said the state-run carrier had requested slots for three weekly flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. The Airports Authority said the service would begin in early March.
Air India was awaiting clearance from the Indian aviation regulator to fly over Saudi Arabia, the spokesman said.
However, Israeli media, in unsourced reports, said Riyadh had granted the necessary flyover rights, which would shorten the flight time from New Delhi by more than two hours.
India and Israel have built close ties over the years, largely centered on arms purchases, away from the public eye.
But under Narendra Modi, whose nationalist party has long admired Israel for its tough approach to terrorism, ties have flowered across the economy and last year he made a first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian prime minister.
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India last month, the first such trip in 15 years.
El Al Israel Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, flies four weekly flights to Mumbai but these take seven hours rather than five as they take a route south toward Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it will grant Air India 750,000 euros for flying the new route, as part of its policy of increasing the number of airlines flying to Israel.
Air India had made a similar request for slots to Israeli authorities last year but never followed through, after that circumventing Saudi airspace was not economically viable.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is in Riyadh for an official visit.


126,000 pilgrims from Bangladesh will perform Hajj 2018

Bangladeshi Hajj pilgrims arrive at Jeddah airport. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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126,000 pilgrims from Bangladesh will perform Hajj 2018

  • Bangladeshi pilgrims were in a good condition and everything, from accommodation to treatment, was going well

DHAKA: The last Hajj flights from Bangladesh will leave for Saudi Arabia this morning.
About 125,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims have already reached the holy city Makkah, on special flights operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines
(Saudia).
The two operators will take the last batch of 1,400 pilgrims from Hazarat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, after which the Hajj flights will be closed until Aug. 27.
The Bangladesh government has made extensive efforts to cooperate with the Kingdom in arranging travel plans for pilgrims, said officials in Dhaka.
“Our Ministry of Religious Affairs is highly concerned about the well-being of the pilgrims,” Saiful Islam, director of the Hajj Office in Dhaka, told Arab News.
“About 250 Bangladesh officials, including the staff of the Bangladesh mission in Saudi Arabia, have been deployed at places that the pilgrims will visit while performing the rituals of Hajj,” he told Arab News.
Most of the staff of the Religious Affairs Ministry have been sent to Saudi Arabia to assist Bangladeshi pilgrims and provide them with emergency support, Islam said.
“Three medical camps have been established in Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah with 30 doctors and nurses to cater to pilgrims’ medical needs. In case of emergency, arrangements have been made to move a pilgrim in critical condition to specialized local hospitals,” he added.
“This year, so far, everything is under control and running very smoothly,” said M. Shahadat Hossain Taslim, secretary-general of the Hajj Agencies Association of Banglaesh (HAAB).
Speaking to Arab News from Makkah, Taslim expressed his gratitude to the Hajj Ministry of Saudi Arabia for its “better Hajj management this year.”
“Last year, many Bangladeshi pilgrims faced difficulty due to lack of transport in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah,” he said. “But this year, we have addressed the issue well ahead of time and are not facing any problem in this regard.”
Bangladeshi pilgrims were in a good condition and everything, from accommodation to treatment, was going well, he added.
A total of 126,000 pilgrims from Bangladesh will perform Hajj this year.
The Hajj flights from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia will be closed after Friday and resume on Aug. 27 to bring the pilgrims back home.