Wizz to launch UAE-Israel route as Etihad begins service

Airlines are adding more routes and capacity between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has confirmed plans to launch scheduled service between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Tel Aviv (TLV) later this month—less than 24 hours after Etihad Airways began flying between the destinations. 

From April 18, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi intends to start a 3X-weekly route using Airbus A321neo aircraft. Flights are expected to increase to daily by late May. 

The planned launch comes after Etihad operated its inaugural AUH-TLV service on April 6. The carrier will initially offer 2X-weekly flights using a two-class Boeing 787-9s, equipped with 290 seats. 

The expansion in the UAE-Israel market comes seven months after the nations agreed to develop diplomatic, trade and tourism ties as part of the signing of the Abraham Accords in Washington in September 2020.

Israel was also added to Abu Dhabi’s green list on April 5, meaning passengers arriving from Tel Aviv will no longer need to quarantine for 10 days. Instead, travelers will only be required to undergo PCR testing for COVID-19 at AUH.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi MD Kees Van Schaick described the new connection between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv as “a historic moment.” 

He added: “The link between the UAE and Israel will further contribute to the tourism sector and help to diversify the local economy, while bringing new low-fare business and leisure opportunities for travelers.”

O&D traffic between Israel and the UAE totaled 13,486 two-way passengers in 2019, Sabre Market Intelligence data shows, with Amman (AMM), Jordan and then Turkish airports Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen (SAW) the top three connecting markets.

Etihad also believes there is “significant travel demand” between Israel and the UAE for both business and leisure travel.

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“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,” the carrier said in a statement.

Etihad and El Al Israel Airlines are also continuing preparations for wide-ranging cooperation on the AUH-TLV route. The carriers signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in November 2020, covering codeshare on each other’s operations, a frequent flyer tie-up and cooperation in cargo, training and maintenance services.

Speaking at the time, Etihad CEO Tony Douglas said the MOU forms the foundation of what he hopes will be “a strong ongoing relationship” between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, four airlines have now started regular scheduled flights between the UAE and Israel, with Wizz Air Abu Dhabi set to become the fifth.

The latest schedules data provided by OAG shows that by June 2021, Etihad and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi plan to each serve the AUH-TLV market with 1X-daily flight. Flydubai also intends to grow its Dubai (DXB)-TLV route from 13X-weekly to 4X-daily, while El Al will offer DXB-TLV 6X-weekly.

The OAG data also shows Israir is currently providing direct DXB-TLV service—although no flights are listed beyond April 30.

Photo credit: Wizz Air