Philippines in Talks with Saudi Arabia for Manila-Tel Aviv Overflight Rights

The Philippine government has requested permission from Saudi Arabia for the rights to fly through its airspace on a direct flight path to Israel, Globes reported Wednesday.

The country made the request ahead of the anticipated launch of direct Manila-Tel Aviv flights by the state-owned Philippine Airlines later this year.

Philippine Transportation Undersecretary Manuel Tamayo said, “We have rights already as far as Israel is concerned. Hopefully, we should get to overfly Saudi Arabia to Israel.”

Tamayo added that flying over Saudi Arabia will allow carriers to save costs and at least one hour of travel time on the Manila-Tel Aviv route. In 2017, the number of tourists visiting Israel from the Philippines rose by 61 percent and tourism in the other direction rose by 42 percent in 2016.

“So we’re pushing for the signing of the overfly agreement by this quarter, as Israel is a seasonal market. Most passengers would like to travel there during the cold months,” the undersecretary explained.

Israel and the Philippines signed a bilateral services agreement in 2013 by which terms the two countries can fly between any of their cities 21 times per week. However, so far no direct flights have been launched.

While Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and the two nations have no formal diplomatic relations, the kingdom in March opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel for an Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv.

The historic decision signals increased cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, in light of Iranian expansionism in the region. However, Saudi authorities have so far not granted overfly permits to Israeli national carrier El Al, which operates four weekly flights to Mumbai.

According to Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Singapore Airlines and an unidentified Filipino airline are considering asking Saudi Arabia for permission to plan routes to Israel that overfly Saudi airspace.

[Photo: lkarasawa / Flickr ]