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Oman just lifted its flight ban on El Al. This means flights from Israel to Asia will be faster

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For years, travel times to eastern Israel depended on who you were flying with.

If you were boarding a flight operated by Israeli airlines, including the national airline El Al, your flight would take about two hours longer than if you were flying with another airline.

The reason? Israeli airlines have been banned from airspace in Oman and Saudi Arabia. This meant that flights to India and Southeast Asia, which would naturally head east from Israel, had to dip south, cross Jordan and follow the Red Sea to the bottom of the peninsula. Arabian, before clinging to the northeast.

Now all of that is changing. Following the announcement by the Saudi government in July 2022 to open the country’s airspace to all carriers, Oman followed suit.

On February 23, Oman’s Civil Aviation Authority announced that it would open its airspace to “all carriers that meet the Authority’s overflight requirements”, ending the ban. of El Al, Israir and Arkia, the three Israeli airlines.

In a Tweeterhe said the move was “part of the Sultanate of Oman’s continuing efforts to fulfill its obligations under the 1944 Chicago Convention, which stipulates non-discrimination between civil aircraft used in international air navigation”.

The move could cut Israeli carrier flight times to Asia by up to three hours, Jonathan Sivarajah, a frequent El Al flyer and Israeli aviation commentator, told CNN.

He added that it “opens up new opportunities [for the airlines]not only in Asia, but potentially in Australia as well.

El Al’s nonstop flight from Tel Aviv to Bangkok is currently listed as taking 10 hours 45 minutes. But a non-stop flight on Royal Jordanian from Amman – 160 km east of Tel Aviv – takes eight hours and ten minutes. In fact, flying from Tel Aviv to Amman and then Bangkok can be faster, even including airport transfer time – a connecting flight can take as little as nine hours and 55 minutes on Royal Jordanian.

When the airline was banned from Saudi airspace, El Al flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai lasted seven hours and 45 minutes. This flight time was later reduced to five hours 15 minutes, before the route was put on hold.

At the time of the announcement, El Al quickly posted a map of its old and new routes to Southeast Asia on Instagram.

Sivarajah said that so far competing international carriers have “flooded” Israel with flights faster than the country’s own airlines were able to provide.

“Foreign carriers to Tel Aviv, like Air India, could operate in territory that El Al could not. There was a significant price difference due to routing in favor of Air India,” he said.

“It’s only when the Abraham Accords [of 2020] and the Saudi endorsement that it has become partly possible for Israeli carriers to compete. The final stumbling block was Oman.

He expects the new routings to start “in the next few days”.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a big news day for the Israeli air force.”

He added: “The Far East is not that far away and the sky is no longer the limit.

“We worked to open up the airspace, first over Saudi Arabia, and from 2018 when I visited Oman, to add Oman as well, so we could fly directly to India and then to Australia. It’s done today, after considerable efforts, including in recent months. Here’s some good news: Israel is opening up to the east on an unprecedented scale.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also released a statement, calling the news a “historic decision that will shorten the route to Asia, reduce costs for Israeli citizens and help Israeli airlines be more competitive.” . He personally thanked the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, for his “substantial help” in the process.

The announcement came after months of talks between the two countries.

It also follows an announcement earlier this month that El Al would launch a frequent flyer partnership with UAE airline Etihad Airways. Frequent flyers can now collect and spend airline miles on both airlines. The two had started codesharing on flights in 2021.

Last year, El Al said a route from Tel Aviv to Melbourne, Australia was in the works.

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