MIAMI – Etihad Airways (EY) has become the first GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) carrier to operate passenger flights to and from Israel.

The flight departed from Tel Aviv (TLV) at 10:18AM, and arrived in Abu Dhabi (AUH) at 2:07PM. Operated by a Boeing 787-10 (Greenliner Special Livery), the flight clocked in at 2 hours 49 minutes. 

According to the airline, onboard the flight were “tourism industry leaders, key corporate decision makers, travel agents, and cargo agents, along with media to experience Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE, at the invitation of Etihad Airways and representatives of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry” 

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Gerry Stegmeier.

Statements from Etihad Aviation Group

His Excellency Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, Chairman of the Etihad Aviation Group said, “Today’s flight is a historic opportunity for the development of strong partnerships here in the UAE, and in Israel, and Etihad as the national airline, is delighted to be leading the way. 

He continued, “We are just starting to explore the long-term potential of these newly forged relationships, which will be sure to greatly benefit the economies of both nations, particularly in the areas of trade and tourism, and ultimately the people who call this diverse and wonderful region home.” 

El Al (LY) operated a similar symbolic commercial flight between the two countries on August 31. In addition to the historical flight, Etihad is the first Arab airline to offer their website in Hebrew. 

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Why Is This Significant?

Foreign relations between Israel and Arab countries are some of the mostly watched. In August, a landmark agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, with the help of the United States, normalized relations between the two countries. 

Since the 1970s, relations between Israel and the UAE have been tense. Flights between the two countries would have been unthinkable until increased diplomacy in the past few years. As a part of the increased diplomatic relations, the flight shows good faith between the two countries. 

Since both El Al and EY are representatives of their respective governments, the flights show material diplomacy between the two countries. 

Featured image: Roberto Leiro