As the UAE and Israel get set to sign an agreement normalising relations later today in Washington, the national airline of the UAE is looking forward to being able to introduce commercial flights between the countries.
Etihad Airways was the first commercial airline from the Gulf to announce a landing in Tel Aviv. In May, the airline flew to Ben Gurion Airport transporting medical supplies for Palestine. A second Etihad flight between Israel and Abu Dhabi operated in June, also for a coronavirus-related humanitarian mission.
These humanitarian flights were special services, but the Abu Dhabi airline now says it is welcoming the chance to introduce more flight links between the countries.
"Etihad is the first commercial airline from the Gulf to have landed in Israel and welcomes the opportunity to explore operations between the two cities once a bilateral Air Services Agreement (ASA) is established and regulatory approvals have been obtained," a spokesepeson from the airline told The National.
"The result of a new bilateral ASA will not only lead to co-operation across various industries, but to stronger economic ties."
First flight from Israel to Abu Dhabi
Last month, Israeli airline El Al operated the first direct commercial passenger flight from Israel to the UAE. Flight LY971 flew from Tel Aviv with the word peace adorned on its livery in Arabic, Hebrew and English. The flight passed over Saudi Arabian air space as it carried a high-ranking American and Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi.
Bahrain will join the UAE and Israel to sign the peace agreement at the White House on Tuesday.
There are currently no direct commercial flights on offer between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, but an Israeli travel agency has started selling general Etihad flight tickets to its customers.
From September 1, travellers in Israel have been able to purchase Etihad tickets directly from Tal Aviation. The agency said it introduced the service after noticing an increase in demand for Etihad flight tickets as the Abu Dhabi airline resumed services to more destinations.
"Over the past few weeks, we've seen an increase in demand in the Israeli market and a desire to get back to flying," said Nissim Sagis, Tal Aviation's chief commercial officer. "We are excited at the opportunity of working with our new partner, Etihad, and to be able to offer our Israeli customers the ability of experiencing the airline's superior levels of in-flight service to many destinations across its extensive global route network."
Israeli travellers cannot currently fly directly to Abu Dhabi with the airline, but can take an Etihad flight from Athens, Amman or Istanbul. Once in the UAE, they can transit to many of the airline’s destinations.
Etihad has announced the resumption of flights to 58 destinations around the world, with Casablanca and Rabat the latest to be added to the network.
In an effort to encourage travel, the airline has also introduced free medical cover for Covid-19 for all passengers flying with Etihad.