Against a backdrop of an Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 landing at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) Oct. 20 with the first official UAE governmental mission to the Jewish state, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, together with UAE economy minister Abdulla bin Touq and minister of state for financial affairs Obaid Al Tayer, announced plans for reciprocal visa-free travel between the two countries.
This came on the heels of an Etihad 787 making the first commercial flight between the two nations Oct. 19, when it ferried Israeli travel and tourism representatives from TLV to Abu Dhabi (AUH).
“We are just starting to explore the long-term potential of these newly forged relationships,” Etihad Aviation Group chairman Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei said, describing the flight as “an historic opportunity.”
Israel’s transportation ministry was cited by several Israeli media outlets as saying plans are imminent for 28 weekly commercial flights between TLV, Dubai (DXB) and AUH.
The agreement also reportedly includes unlimited charter flights to the southern Israeli resort of Eilat (ETH) and 10 weekly Israel-UAE cargo flights.
Israeli charter operator Israir has already applied for a number of slots between TLV and AUH and, according to Israeli media, leisure carrier Arkia also plans flights to DXB from Jan. 3, 2021.
Both nations anticipate a brisk exchange of tourists once air links are up and running, with the Abu Dhabi government announcing it has instructed the emirate’s hotels and restaurants to add kosher options to their menus.
Etihad, meanwhile, has become the first non-Israeli airline in the Middle East to launch a dedicated website for the Israeli market in Hebrew.
The moves are the latest developments in a rapidly growing co-operation between the two states following the establishment of diplomatic ties and the signing of the so-called Abraham Accords between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel in Washington DC Sept. 15 to normalize diplomatic relations between them.
Photo credit: Joe Pries