Allaying fears among a growing number of Israelis using Air India flights to Delhi, India’s national carrier has rubbished as “baseless” the claims in certain sections of the Israeli media that it is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Some Israeli media outlets recently reported that Air India was trapped in huge debt running over a billion and may collapse soon. They also advised Israeli passengers, who have booked their tickets of the Indian carrier, to take necessary steps to recover their money. “Air India (AI) strongly refutes the canards being spread by a section of the media in Israel and a few web/online portals about the airline being on the verge of collapse. This is totally baseless, false and hatched to malign the image of the organisation and thwart its rising graph by vested interest,” according to a statement issued by AI’s Tel Aviv office.
“We would like to clear the air that, contrary to these speculation, Air India is growing from strength to strength and has, in fact, been standing by passengers in distress left stranded by airlines abruptly shutting down,” it said. “It is requested that any such attempt to create confusion and tarnish the credibility of Air India be rejected outright,” the statement said. AI country manager Pankaj Tiwari said that “it is a fake news alert, and in fact, Air India is considering further increasing the number of flights on the Tel Aviv-Delhi route”.
Air India’s Tel Aviv-Delhi sector is considered as a major diplomatic breakthrough given that the flights use Saudi and Omani airspace, registering an impressive growth with average seat occupancy around 80 per cent making it one of the most lucrative sector. The Indian carrier started its operation on the route on March 22 last year with three flights per week. The rising demand forced the airline to increase its flights from three to four per week.
Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and Oman. The permission given to AI by the two Gulf countries to use their airspace to fly into Tel Aviv has often been presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a big diplomatic success story of his leadership. The long and difficult path to this success story also included objections from Israel’s national carrier El Al which filed a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court against the permission given to AI on grounds of “unfair competition”. El Al later withdrew the petition.
Surprisingly, several responses in the Israeli media on the story blamed the El Al for the “rumours” being spread against Air India. The access to Saudi and Omani airspace shortens the flight path by almost two hours and also significantly lowers the fuel cost which can be transferred on to the passengers, giving Air India a price advantage.