Etihad Operates Historic First Passenger Flight To Israel

United Arab Emirates airline Etihad today made history with its first commercial passenger flight to Israel. The flight comes as tensions between the two nations thaw and follows two cargo aid flights operated by the airline earlier this year.

Etihad, Tel Aviv, First Flight
Etihad today operated its first passenger flight to Tel Aviv. Photo: Etihad via Twitter

In mid-September, the United Arab Emirates and Israel met in Washington D.C. to sign the Abraham Accords. This saw the two nations establishing diplomatic ties. As part of these ties, the countries have opened up direct air travel routes that previously did not exist. While El Al was the first airline to make a flight carrying passengers between the two nations, Etihad has now followed.

Etihad’s Israel flight

Today Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad made history with its first passenger flight to Israel. The airline carried a delegation of tourism industry leaders, key corporate decision-makers, travel and cargo agents, and media onboard the flight. For the flight, Etihad used one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, its green liveried Greenliner.

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Etihad made use of a new flight corridor between Israel, and the United Arab Emirates opened up by an overflight agreement with Saudi Arabia. On the airline’s previous two flights, its aircraft had to operate a very indirect route up to and around through Turkey, given the lack of overflight arrangements. The flight lasted two hours and 52 minutes, cruising at an altitude of 40,000 feet.

Etihad, Tel Aviv, First Flight
The flight took just under three hours. Photo:

The two previous flights operated by Etihad to Tel Aviv were only carrying cargo. Indeed, the aircraft, an A330 and Boeing 787, were loaded with aid from the UAE at the time, signifying that relations could be thawing between the two nations. The airline will return to Abu Dhabi with the guests from today on Wednesday, October 21st.

Commenting on the flight, His Excellency Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, Chairman, Etihad Aviation Group, remarked,

“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.”

El Al’s first flight

While being the first passenger flight of a UAE carrier to Israel, Etihad’s flight won’t be the first on the route. On August 31st, Israeli flag carrier El Al operated the first flight on the route with a Boeing 737. The flight was carrying a delegation of US and Israeli diplomats, in addition to the media.

El Al 737
Earlier this year, Israeli airline El Al became the first to fly between the two countries. Getty Images

Alongside being the first flight carrying passengers between the two countries, this flight was also remarkable as it was the first overflight of Saudi Arabia by an Israeli airline. Since then, an overflight agreement has been made with Saudi Arabia, making flights much easier between the two countries.

What do you make of this historic flight by Etihad? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!