The Israeli airline Arkia has been forced to cancel a new route to Goa in the South West of India because the Sultanate of Oman is still refusing to open up its airspace to Israeli carriers.
Arkia had hoped that Oman would quickly follow Saudi Arabia which announced a landmark decision to open its airspace to Israeli airline overflights during President Biden’s visit to the Kingdom in July.
Instead, months later, there is still no confirmation of when or even if Oman will open its airspace to Israeli jets. Without Oman also opening its airspace, the decision by Saudi Arabia to allow overflights is next to useless.
Arkia had already planned a new route to Goa based on the assumption that Oman was going to allow Israeli overflights. The direct route requires aircraft to fly across Saudi and Omani airspace before crossing the Arabian sea.
Without access to Saudi airspace, Israeli aircraft hoping to fly to India must fly a long circuitous route around Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Arkia had hoped to operate its new Airbus A321 aircraft on the route, but the carrier has now written to passengers with booked tickets to tell them that the flights won’t be going ahead.
Indian carriers including Air India do have permission to operate flights between India and Israel through Omani airspace giving these airlines a competitive advantage in both flight time and operating cost.
In 2018, Israeli airlines protested the decision by their government to allow Indian airlines to operate these shorter routes while they had to avoid Saudi and Omani airspace.
Relations between Israel and regional neighbours were transformed in 2020 when the UAE and Bahrain normalised diplomatic relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia initially allowed overflights for direct flights between Israel and the UAE before removing all restrictions earlier this year.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.