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Etihad Airways Launches Historic Service From Abu Dhabi To Israel

The world has changed during the pandemic years in unexpected ways. Journalists are constantly informed of ‘historic’ developments, most of which are quickly forgotten. But Etihad Airway’s launch this week of commercial airline service from Abu Dhabi to Israel, based on warming diplomatic ties between the historic adversaries, is truly a history maker.

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has launched a twice-weekly regular service between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Tel Aviv (TLV), marking the latest development in the warming relations between the two nations. The service will join similar flights between Dubai (DXB) and TLV which kicked off in December, flying over Saudi Arabia.

The Abu Dhabi/Israel flights reflect “the growing cooperation between the two nations following the establishment of diplomatic, trade and tourism ties,” according to an Etihad press release. This is an outgrowth of the Abraham Accords, “A Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel.”

The accords get their name from the “common ancestor” of the “Arab and Jewish peoples,” the Biblical figure Abraham. Some of the diplomatic and business ties include the exchange of embassies, as well as finance and investment, trade and economic relations, energy, agriculture, and civil aviation agreements.

Etihad will offer two weekly flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, with the service provided by the airline’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. The planes boast 28 luxurious Business ‘studios’ and 262 Economy smart seats, with Etihad’s e-box entertainment system and inflight “wi-fly” connectivity. Although Etihad has been known for its outrageous three-room Residence on its Airbus A380 aircraft, the airline says by 2023, the long-range, fuel-efficient 787 will represent 50 per cent of its fleet.

Passengers travelling from Tel Aviv can also connect with Etihad flights to 35 destinations worldwide, including major cities across Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Australia. Etihad and the national carrier of Israel, EL AL, are cooperating on the AUH-TLV route and beyond. EL AL and Etihad signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year. It covers codes haring, cooperation in cargo, training and maintenance services, and the ultimate gesture of peace, allowing travelers to share frequent flyer points.

There is even a timely COVID-19 angle to this tale of warming relations between two historic antagonists. This week, Israel was added to Abu Dhabi’s “green list,” permitting quarantine-free travel for visitors arriving to the city. Business and leisure travel are expected to quickly take off as both the UAE and Israel boast two of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world.

In February 2021, Etihad announced that it was the first airline in the world with a 100% vaccinated on-board crew. The airline was also first to require 100% of passengers to show a negative PCR test result before departure as part of the“Etihad Wellness” program. It also provides global COVID insurance with every ticket.

The Abu Dhabi to Israel service began on April 6, 2021. Etihad Airways EY598, the first scheduled flight took off at 10:05AM and landed at Ben Gurion Airport at 12:30PM Israel time. The plane, carrying a diplomatic and business delegation representing the UAE, was greeted with the now-traditional water cannon salute.

“Today is a hugely significant moment in Etihad’s history, as we operate our first scheduled commercial flight into Tel Aviv,” Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said at a ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport. “Last year, we witnessed the UAE and Israel make history when signing the Abraham Accords. We are tremendously excited about the opportunities this poses for Etihad, and our home Abu Dhabi.”


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