Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), today launched its regular flight service between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. Additionally, on Monday, Israel was added to Abu Dhabi’s ‘green list’, giving quarantine-free travel for visitors arriving in Abu Dhabi.
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 2020.
Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways EY598, the first scheduled flight from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Ben Gurion International Airport, took to the skies this morning (Tuesday) at 10:05 (UAE time). On board the flight was a diplomatic and economic delegation representing the UAE. The delegation includes H.E. Mohamed Al-Khaja, UAE’s first Ambassador to Israel, Eitan Nae’eh, Israel’s Head of Mission to the UAE, and Tony Douglas, Etihad’s Group CEO.
The flight landed at Ben Gurion Airport at 12:30 (Israel 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 Shmuel Zakay, CEO, Ben Gurion International Airport.
Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, 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 celebrated flight was 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. The return flight, EY599 will connect passengers from Tel Aviv into Abu Dhabi, who will no longer be required to quarantine on arrival, now that Israel has been added to the Abu Dhabi ‘green list’. As well as connecting with the UAE, passengers travelling from Tel Aviv can 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. This is bolstered by the fact that Israel and the UAE boast two of the highest vaccination rates in the world, giving 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 cooperation on the route, and beyond. The partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2020 covering codeshare on each other’s operations, a frequent flyer tie-up and cooperation in cargo, training and maintenance services.
Etihad has established a reputation as one of the leading airlines in response to the pandemic. In February 2021, Etihad was the first airline in the world to announce it is operating with 100% of its crew on board vaccinated.
The airline introduced Etihad Wellness, an industry-leading programme to ensure wellbeing at every stage of the customer journey and provide greater peace of mind when travelling. Etihad Wellness is championed by specially-trained Wellness Ambassadors who are available 24/7 to provide essential travel health information and care pre-flight through a live chat function on etihad.com, at the airport, and on board.
To reinforce the effectiveness of Etihad Wellness, the airline provides global Covid insurance with every ticket, so passengers are covered when they are away from home.
As a further commitment to safety, Etihad was the first airline in the world to require 100% of passengers to show a negative PCR test result before departure and retesting on arrival in Abu Dhabi.