Which countries have banned both direct flights and overflying traffic to/from Israel?
It’s a question we get asked a lot. Here’s the answer:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen.
These countries do not officially recognise Israel, and prohibit flights going to/from Israel from using their airspace.
The two exceptions we’ve spotted are:
1. In March 2018, Saudi Arabia started giving Air India permission to use its airspace on flights between VIDP/Delhi and LLBG/Tel Aviv, thus marking the end of the 70-year airspace ban that Saudi Arabia had in place against flights to/from Israel.
2. Sudan, who regularly allow Ethiopian Airlines to use their airspace for their Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv flights:
But for everyone else wanting to do private or non-scheduled flights to/from Israel, Sudan airspace is off-limits.
For anyone wanting to get from Israel to Asia, there is a narrow corridor available down the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and across the Indian Ocean. This takes advantage of the fact that most countries operate with a 12NM rule – that is, if you’re in their FIR, and you’re 12NM away from the landmass, you don’t need a permit.
Israel’s national carrier El Al operates a couple of scheduled flights on this basis – one to Mumbai, and another to Bangkok:
There is no airway down the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so you have to fly a direct route between the FIRs. As reported by an Opsgroup member, here’s how it works:
“FL290 for southbound traffic, and FL300 for northbound. ATC at both Cairo and Saudi FIRs are used to that. When departing from Israel and going southbound, after losing radar contact with Cairo, you are on your own. Report on Africa VHF freq that you are “over International waters southbound / northbound etc.” Listen to Saudi control and try to call them – but do not expect an answer. You will need to maintain your own separation visually, although the Saudis will see you on their radar and they are used to jets flying there. Keep your landing lights on ‘pulse’ for any opposite traffic. Contact Asmara (Eritrea) control 10NM before entering their FIR. Use SAT phone if no one answers on VHF.”
On the reverse side, Israel only allow overflights of their airspace to Royal Jordanian Airlines, and only when departing from or flying to the following airports: CYUL/Montreal, EHBK/Maastricht, KDTW/Detroit, KORD/Chicago, LTAC/Ankara.
Although it’s technically possible for other operators to apply for an overflight permit, it can take up to 30 days, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll get approved unless you’re operating some kind of diplomatic or state flight.