Etihad to become first Gulf carrier to operate commercial flight from Israel

Historic flight, flown in partnership with the Maman Group, will depart Tel Aviv on Monday to bring Israel’s top travel and tourism leaders to the UAE

Etihad Airways will become the first GCC carrier to operate a commercial passenger flight to and from Israel, to bring Israel’s top travel and tourism leaders to the UAE.

The historic flight, flown in partnership with the Maman Group, will depart Tel Aviv on Monday, operated by an Etihad Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft for the three-and-a-half-hour journey from Israel to the UAE. The return journey will depart Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

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This is the latest development in a growing cooperation between the two nations following the establishment of diplomatic ties, and the signing of the Abraham Accords between the UAE and Israel in Washington DC on September 15.

It also follows Israeli national airline El Al’s first symbolic commercial flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi on August 31.

Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, chairman, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Today’s flight is a historic opportunity for the development of strong partnerships here in the UAE, and in Israel, and Etihad as the national airline, is delighted to be leading the way. We are just starting to explore the long-term potential of these newly forged relationships, which will be sure to greatly benefit the economies of both nations, particularly in the areas of trade and tourism, and ultimately the people who call this diverse and wonderful region home.”

The flight comes as Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed on a deal to allow for 28 direct weekly passenger flights connecting Tel Aviv with Abu Dhabi and Dubai, according to a statement from Israel’s Transportation Ministry.

The flights will begin “within weeks” and came after significant commercial interest from airliners on both sides in the routes, the statement said. Both countries are in the process of developing economic and diplomatic agreements following the decision to normalize relations earlier this year.

Currently, Royal Jordanian and Turkish Airlines are the only carriers in the Middle East that fly to Israel.

The UAE’s gains could prove to be a setback for Turkish Airlines, “as they have traditionally provided those profitable connections for travellers coming from Israel through their hub in Istanbul”, said Anne Correa, vice president for airline and airport services at aviation consulting firm Morten Beyer & Agnew.

Israel and Bahrain cemented a deal officially establishing relations and signed seven memorandums of understanding Sunday, further opening up the wealthy Gulf region to the Jewish state.

The documentation was signed at a ceremony in the presence of other international dignitaries and reporters, an AFP correspondent said, fleshing out a US-brokered deal the two nations had agreed to at the White House on September 15.

The Israeli delegation, led by National Security Council chief Meir Ben Shabbat, had travelled to Manama from Tel Aviv on the first direct flight between the two countries.

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