Saudi Arabia opens airways
Clearing the skies

Saudi Arabia opens airways

"The shorter travel time would help to bring us all that little bit closer to Israel and strengthen the already strong ties between Australia and Israel".

The first El Al passenger flight, LY 85, to land in Melbourne on Thursday, April 2, 2020. Photo: Peter Haskin.

Flying from Australia to Israel could be “like going from Sydney to LA”, with the opening of Saudi airspace to all airlines – including Israel’s El Al – announced last week.

The shorter flight times without the need to circumnavigate the Arabian Peninsula will create new flight routes as well as shorten existing flight paths, and in turn reduce the cost of multiple flights, making travel to Israel more accessible to the Jewish Diaspora.

Senior travel agent at the Israel Travel Centre in Sydney, Miriam Rosenman said, “We can potentially get a direct flight from Sydney to Tel Aviv in 15-and-a-half hours.”

“It’s like going from Sydney to LA just about, so that’s pretty exciting,” she said.

Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) communications director, Emily Gian told The AJN that reduced travel times and ticket costs “would have a huge impact on all of our programs including Masa, Taglit Birthright and Diller Teen Fellows”.

She added that not only would the shorter travel time “logistically” make it easier to take large groups of teenagers and young adults to Israel, but “the shorter travel time would help to bring us all that little bit closer to Israel and strengthen the already strong ties between Australia and Israel”.

Since the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israeli companies have been allowed to fly over Saudi Arabia on the way to the UAE or Bahrain – but not to fly directly from Israel to other destinations such as India and Thailand.

An El Al executive said that there is a commercial demand for direct flights to Australia given the sizeable Jewish community in the country and the mutual business opportunities in both countries.

“Opening the airspace would be significant and greatly welcomed news for Israeli tourists,” the executive said.

Melbourne-based travel agent from FBI Travel Mark Chaskiel believes that this is a good step forward, but won’t make a huge impact as most travel already goes via the Gulf.

He does believe, however, that a direct flight to Israel will encourage more people to visit the nation and stop over there.

“As much as Israel to [the Jewish people] is a destination, by having a nonstop flight, this should introduce the idea of an Israel stopover en route to Europe for example,” Chaskiel said.

He added, “There is potential for new business and as we know, if the market is captivated by the stopover their next trip may be there as a destination.

“As time moves forward more options and combinations should become available allowing for different stopover opportunities,” he concluded.

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