The first Etihad Airways flight to Israel returned to Abu Dhabi on Monday with an Israeli travel and tourism delegation on board, according to an Etihad statement.
Earlier, the first commercial passenger (Boeing 787 Dreamliner) flight to Israel by a carrier from the UAE landed at Ben-Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv just after 7 am, further cementing a normalization deal between the two countries.
Etihad’s Israel flight
Etihad made use of a new flight corridor between Israel, and the United Arab Emirates opened up by an overflight agreement with Saudi Arabia. On the airline’s previous two flights, its aircraft had to operate a very indirect route up to and around through Turkey, given the lack of overflight arrangements. The flight lasted two hours and 52 minutes, cruising at an altitude of 40,000 feet.
Etihad said it plans regular passenger flights between the countries in the future and was launching a dedicated Hebrew website.
Etihad previously sent to Tel Aviv an unmarked cargo plane flying aid to assist the Palestinians in fighting Covid-19. In August, a Star of David-adorned El Al plane flew from Israel to Abu Dhabi, carrying a high-ranking American and Israeli delegation in the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries.
— Etihad Airways (@etihad) October 19, 2020
This is the latest development in growing cooperation between the two nations following the establishment of diplomatic ties, and the signing of the Abraham Accords in Washington on September 15. Israel’s national airline El Al’s made a first symbolic flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi on August 31.
The flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi will also carry commercial cargo sourced from, and destined for, points across Etihad’s global network, in addition to commercial guests. Etihad also becomes the first non-Israeli airline in the Middle East to launch a dedicated website for the Israeli market in Hebrew.
How high will rates be?
Ticket rates are subject to supply and demand, says aviation analyst Brendan Sobie. “Given there will be several airlines flying between Israel and the UAE, there should be significant supply.”
Before there are full-fledged flights between the countries, a mutually acceptable visa regime change is a must. “Although we have been getting travel enquiries from Israelis since the signing of the peace deal in August, we are unable to apply for visas for Israelis,” said a spokesperson for Regal Tours Worldwide.
Even then there’s a lot more that needs to be done. “Airlines will have to secure all the required regulatory approvals as is always the case with a new international route, » said Sobie. « They will need to pick suppliers and forge partnerships to support the flights operationally and facilitate distribution in the destination market.