JERUSALEM : El Al Israel Airlines said on Monday it will start direct flights from Tel Aviv to Tokyo from next March, two years after the launch was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline has been looking to expand eastbound flights since its second-quarter results showed a rebound from the slump in travel during the pandemic.
The plan has been buoyed by Saudi Arabia’s announcement, during a visit by U.S. President Joe Biden in July, that it would allow overhead flights by all foreign carriers. That would spell shorter flight times for Israeli planes headed to Asia.
When that corridor – which would include neighbouring Oman – will be formally opened remains unclear. Israel does not have bilateral ties with either Arab country, and previous Saudi overflight permission for its jets has required U.S. mediation.
“I really don’t have an answer on this,” Israeli Transport Minister Merav Michaeli told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM on Friday when asked about the timing for implementation of Riyadh’s decision.
“The diplomatic issue is, unfortunately, still out of my hands.”
To meet demand on long-haul routes, El Al said it planned to add a 16th Boeing 787 in 2023. The new twice-weekly flights to Japan’s capital will be aboard these aircraft.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Susan Fenton)