Etihad Airways has launched a regular flight service between the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv in Israel. Israel has been added to Abu Dhabi’s ‘green list’, meaning that visitors arriving there from Tel Aviv do not have to quarantine.
The launch of scheduled operations comes as the next historic step in developing diplomatic, trade and tourism ties between Israel and the UAE, which were inked as part of the Abraham Accords in September last year.
Etihad Airways EY598, the first scheduled flight from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Ben Gurion International Airport, took to the skies on 6 April at 10:05 UAE time. On board was a diplomatic and economic delegation representing the UAE. The delegation included His Excellency Mohamed Al-Khaja, the UAE’s first ambassador to Israel, Eitan Nae’eh, Israel’s head of mission to the UAE, and Etihad Group CEO Tony Douglas.
The flight landed at Ben Gurion Airport at 12:30 local time and was received with the traditional water cannon salute. A welcome reception followed, with speeches given by the UAE’s ambassador to Israel, Etihad’s Group CEO and the CEO of Ben Gurion International Airport, Shmuel Zakay.
Commenting on the occasion, Tony Douglas said: “Today is a hugely significant moment in Etihad’s history, as we operate our first scheduled commercial flight into Tel Aviv. Last year, we witnessed the UAE and Israel make history when signing the Abraham Accords and we are tremendously excited about the opportunities this poses to Etihad, and our home, Abu Dhabi.
“On our inaugural flight today, we were delighted to welcome representatives from some of the UAE’s finest tourism and hospitality operators. These business leaders will not only showcase Abu Dhabi as a world-leading tourism destination, but also reinforce the emirate’s robust and united response towards wellness.”
The route will be operated by one of Etihad’s flagship aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. With 290 seats, 28 business studios and 262 economy smart seats, the Dreamliner features Etihad’s renowned e-box entertainment system and inflight wi-fly connectivity network.
Etihad will initially offer two weekly flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. Passengers travelling from the Israeli coastal city can also take advantage of onward connecting flights to 35 destinations worldwide, including major cities across Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Australia.
There is significant travel demand anticipated between Israel and the UAE and beyond, for both business and leisure travel purposes, according to Etihad. This is bolstered by the fact that Israel and the UAE boast two of the highest vaccination rates in the world, creating potential for a vaccine corridor to further ease travel between the two destinations.
Etihad and the national carrier of Israel, El Al, are continuing preparations for wide-ranging collaboration on the route. The partners signed a memorandum of understanding in November last year, covering codeshare on each other’s operations, a frequent flyer tie-up and co-operation in cargo, training and maintenance services.
In March, Etihad released a video charting the key milestones since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in what it is calling “the most challenging year in aviation history”.