LONDON – Etihad Airways (EY) has today announced plans to launch scheduled year-round flights to Tel Aviv (TLV), Israel from its hub at Abu Dhabi (AUH).

This route launch comes as no surprise, especially with the Abraham Accords signed by the United Arab Emirates and Israel back in September to normalize diplomatic ties between the two sides.

EY also operated a one-off charter between AUH and TLV earlier last month as a mark of respect and seriousness towards such accords being signed in Washington D.C. This has encouraged the likes of Arkia Israeli Airlines (IZ) beginning services into the UAE, particularly with flights to Dubai (DXB).

Photo: Aidan Pullino

Delight from Etihad

Commenting on the news was Mohammad Al Bulooki, the Chief Operating Officer of the Etihad Aviation Group who expressed delight over the announcement.

“Following the signing of the new bilateral agreement, Etihad is delighted to announce a direct link between these important cities. The commencement of scheduled flights is a historic moment and as an airline, cements Etihad’s commitment to growing opportunities for trade and tourism not just between the two countries but also within the region and beyond.”

Such a level of delight continues from EY, especially as it was the first GCC carrier to operate a commercial flight into the country.

Photo: Roberto Leiro

Service Information

Whilst the news was announced via Etihad’s website, there are only a few details surrounding the route at this present time. Services will commence on March 28 next year, but EY offered no insight into the number of flights it will operate on a weekly basis to the Israeli capital.

What we also know is that departures will be timed to connect customers from TLV to destinations across China, India, Thailand and Australia, further opening up the country to the rest of the world.

The airline hasn’t confirmed what the aircraft type will operate the service, but its press release refers to an image of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, potentially hinting that is what the aircraft will be.

Photo: Roberto Leiro

Busy Few Months for EY

The last eight weeks have been busy for Etihad Airways, especially as it tries to stand out from the rest of the competition around the world as we begin to turn a corner on the COVID-19 pandemic with a vaccine.

First, back in September, the airline announced it would join the likes of Virgin Atlantic (VS), Emirates (EK) and others in offering global COVID-19 insurance, in a bid to get consumers flying once again.

To cope with potential increases in demand post-vaccine, the airline unveiled to Middle-Eastern media towards the end of September that its Boeing 787 fleet would increase to 51 by 2021, meaning an additional 11 airframes will be delivered.

Such route launches and expansion plans have probably arisen thanks to a US$22bn injection from the Abu Dhabi government to help it cope with the pandemic.

However, such expansion has to be thought through, especially with the airline also announcing this month that it will become a mid-size airline to enhance a “leaner, flatter and scalable organizational structure”.

Photo: John Leivaditis

Beneficial News Either Way?

While this is good news for Etihad Airways, such a step represents a change in history, as countries around the world begin to normalise diplomatic relations.

And with that comes with benefits to the airline industry, as it means new markets, new destinations, and additional revenue in an already saturated market.

It will be interesting to see how EY will fare in TLV, and how welcome it will be received by its Israeli customer base. Even if it is not initially successful due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has the potential to become a very profitable route post-COVID.

Featured Image: Etihad Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo Credit: Marco Macca