Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Israel’s national carrier El Al have signed a memorandum of understanding to introduce codeshare services and further deepen co-operation amid growing transport links between the two countries.
The agreement will allow both airlines to expand their global flight networks beyond the two airlines’ hubs while operating codeshare services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.
“Following El Al’s historic flight to Abu Dhabi, the first ever flight between Israel and the UAE, this MoU is the foundation of what we envision will be a strong ongoing relationship between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv,” Tony Douglas, group chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group, said.
“We look forward to examining ways in which the two flag carriers can work more closely together to improve business operations and enhance the experience for our guests.”
The MoU also has provisions that will allow the two airlines to explore greater co-operation in the fields of cargo, engineering, loyalty, destination management and the optimal use of pilot and cabin crew training facilities.
Dubai Airports said this week that three Israeli airlines, El Al, Israir and Arkia, will launch direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai next month.
The UAE and Israel recently signed an air transport agreement to allow airlines to introduce commercial flights between the countries.
“Following the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, we have been provided a great opportunity to examine the possibility of cooperation with Etihad Airways,” Gonen Usishkin, chief executive of El Al Israel Airlines, said.
“This MoU is only the start and we believe that together, the two flag carriers will be able to provide our mutual customers with the best possible product and service.”
In addition to codeshare operations, the teams at Etihad Guest and El Al Matmid loyalty programmes will explore reciprocal earn and burn opportunities for its members, as well as other benefits. The airlines’ destination management teams will also collaborate to encourage reciprocal inbound tourism to Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.
A mutual visa-free travel scheme between the two countries will also allow Emiratis to travel to Israel for up to 90 days without a visa.
As part of the deal, both carriers’ engineering and cargo divisions will seek to deepen co-operation by optimising maintenance, repair and overhaul opportunities. They will also look at ways to increase volumes of freighter traffic between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv and across the carriers’ combined networks.
Growing aviation links between the UAE and Israel follow the signing of the Abraham Accord in September, which marked the normalisation of relations between the two countries.
Etihad Airways said it will commence daily services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv from March 28, 2021.
On October 19, Etihad became the first Gulf carrier to operate a commercial passenger flight from Abu Dhabi to Israel. On November 8, flydubai followed suit to operate its first commercial flight to Israel from Dubai.
The Israeli Transport Ministry said that a framework for 28 direct flights a week between the countries was among several agreements signed with the UAE.