Etihad Follows Emirates With Istanbul Flight Resumption

Etihad has announced that it is resuming flights to Istanbul in Turkey from next month. The move follows Emirates’ announcement last week that it would begin daily flights to Istanbul from this week. While the COVID-19 pandemic has hit flights, political tensions between the UAE and Turkey may also have delayed the resumption of services between the two nations.

Etihad Airways Boeing 787
Etihad is resuming flights to Istanbul in January 2021. Photo: Getty Images

UAE-Turkey flights resumed

Etihad will resume flights to Istanbul from January 21, 2021. The airline will initially operate a twice-weekly service operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with economy and business class cabins.

According to The National News, Martin Drew, Senior Vice President Sales and Cargo, Etihad Aviation Group, said,

“As Etihad gradually returns more destinations to its global network, the airline is looking forward to the resumption of scheduled services to Istanbul.”

The outgoing flight, EY97, will depart from Abu Dhabi at 10:05 on Fridays and Sundays, arriving in Istanbul at 14:10. For the return leg, flight EY96 will depart from Istanbul at 15.40 on the same days, arriving in Abu Dhabi at 21:15.

On December 14, Emirates said it would be resuming services to Istanbul from December 21. Flights to and from Istanbul will be operated once daily by a Boeing 777- 300ER. Emirates flight EK 121 will depart Dubai at 14:20 hrs, arriving in Istanbul at 18:20 hrs. The return flight, EK 122, will depart Istanbul at 20:05hrs, arriving in Dubai at 01:20 hrs the following day.

In the announcement seen by Simple Flying, Emirates said,

“The addition of Istanbul expands Emirates’ European network to 31 destinations, enabling customers to safely and easily connect to destinations across its wide global network with one convenient stop in Dubai.”

Emirates 777-300
Emirates resumed flights to Istanbul on December 21. Photo: Emirates

Strained relations between UAE and Turkey

Etihad and Emirates have been gradually restoring their global networks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the resumption of services between the UAE and Turkey has taken longer than expected, which might have more to do with politics than health issues.

UAE flag carrier, Emirates, had been due to begin flights between Dubai and Istanbul on June 25, but tickets weren’t available for booking. Similarly, Etihad had released tickets for sale in the summer but canceled the Abu Dhabi to Istanbul flights.

Political tensions between the UAE and Turkey worsened after Turkey’s President Erdogan threatened to boycott the Gulf state over its normalization of relations with Israel. The two countries also disagree on a range of issues involving Libya, Syria, and Iraq.

The resumption of air corridors to Turkey by both Emirates and Etihad indicates that the tensions between the nations are receding.

Etihad, Inbound flights, United Arab Emirates
Political tensions may have delayed the resumption of Etihad and Emirates flights to Turkey. Photo: Getty Images

UAE flights to Middle East destinations suspended

Just as Etihad and Emirates announce positive news of the restoration of flights to Turkey, fears over the spread of a new strain of the COVID-19 virus have led the carriers to temporarily suspend flights to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman.

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