Air India and Qantas each made history this week with inaugural flights, with Air India beginning service from New Delhi to Tel Aviv and Qantas inaugurating its Perth—London flight. While new routes are often noteworthy, the new Air India and Qantas flights carry significant historical weight. Air India’s flight between New Delhi and Tel Aviv became the first commercial flight to transit Saudi Arabian airspace en route to Israel after 70 years of restrictions and Qantas launched the first non-stop flight between Australia and the UK.
Air India launches New Delhi-Tel Aviv, flies through Saudi Arabia
On 22 March, Air India’s inaugural Delhi-Tel Aviv flight became the first commercial flight to transit Saudi Arabian airspace en route to Israel in 70 years. AI139 will operate thrice weekly service between Delhi and Tel Aviv, overflying Saudi Arabian airspace to save approximately two hours over the previous fastest routing between India and Israel.
Prior to AI139/AI140, the only active flight between Israel and India was El Al’s flight to Mumbai from Tel Aviv. Due to the lack of diplomatic relations with countries in the region, El Al’s flights route around the Arabia peninsula by flying south to the Red Sea, around Yemen through the Gulf of Aden and then across the Arabian Sea, avoiding Saudi Arabian airspace.
Air India’s new flight crosses the Arabian Sea, passes through Oman and then traverses the length of Saudi Arabia before crossing Jordan and landing in Israel. However, neither the El Al nor the Air India flights follow the most direct routing due to continuing diplomatic relations—or the lack thereof—between Israel and other countries in the region. The green lines in the image below indicate the Great Circle paths between Tel Aviv and New Delhi and Mumbai.
First ever Australia-UK non-stop flight
Qantas launched the first ever non-stop flight between Australia and the United Kingdom over the weekend, connecting Perth and London via a 17 hour flight. The new QF9 also becomes the world’s second longest flight (by distance) at 14,500 km. Qantas’ first flights between Australia and London took four days and stopped in six cities in between London and Australia.