An Etihad Airlines aircraft arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday to operate the first commercial passenger service by a Gulf carrier from Israel to the UAE after the Abraham Accords normalising ties between the two nations.
Etihad Flight EY9607 touched down at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport at around 7am local time, flying UAE and Israeli flags, and was scheduled to set off for Abu Dhabi about three hours later. The company described the inaugural flight by a 787 Dreamliner as a “travel-trade mission” and said the aircraft would be carrying travel and tourism industry leaders, cargo agents and the media on a journey to “experience Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE, at the invitation of Etihad Airways and representatives of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry”.
Etihad said it was just the latest development in growing ties between Israel and the UAE after the signing of the Abraham Accords last month at the White House to begin the process of establishing ties. Israeli national airline El Al flew an Israeli-US delegation from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi on August 31 for the first official visit to the Emirates.
On Sunday, the Israeli Transport Ministry said that among a raft of new agreements signed with the UAE was a framework for 28 direct flights a week between the two countries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to sign travel agreements on Tuesday at Ben Gurion Airport to allow 10 weekly cargo flights and an unlimited service between Ramon Airport, near the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, and the UAE.
“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,” Mohamed Al Mazrouei, chairman of Etihad Aviation Group, said. “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.”
To mark the first flight, Etihad also became the first non-Israeli regional airline to launch a dedicated Hebrew and English language website aimed at the Israeli market. Tickets between the UAE and Israel are – as yet – not available online and Tel Aviv is not added to the list of destinations that Etihad flies to. Israeli carriers Israir and El Al are also believed to be planning to launch connections to the UAE, although no date has been set.