Israel is gearing up for its first commercial flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. The flight, which is expected to happen next week, is further affirmation of Israel’s stance and support of the recent Israel–UAE normalization agreement. This flight is, hopefully, the first of many direct services between Israel and the UAE.
The flight next week
The Associated Press reports that US and Israeli officials will take part in the first commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next week.
This flight will likely be on Israel’s flag carrier, El Al. The plane will carry Israeli and US officials. President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz, and envoy for Iran Brian Hook, are expected to be part of the US delegation.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Meanwhile, from Israel, national security advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat will lead the Israeli delegation with several other representatives from other government ministries, including directors of foreign and defense ministries and the national aviation authority.
It is unclear what the commercial aspect of this flight would be. With high-level officials from the US and Israel on the plane, security will be the top priority. There may be some spots open for the family and friends of these officials for sale so, while officials are negotiating and dealing with the government/political side of things, family and friends can explore Abu Dhabi and promote potential tourist links. Again, it is unclear what the commercial nature of this flight would be.
The Saudi Arabia question
Saudi Arabia has not gone ahead and forged relations with Israel or supported the deal wholeheartedly. It is not known now if Saudi Arabia will open its airspace up for El Al to operate this flight. Without it, El Al will need to take a roundabout journey to Abu Dhabi heading first south over the Red Sea, turning towards the East south of Yemen and Oman, before tracking North and turning west to enter UAE airspace to head to Abu Dhabi.
Other flights to Israel, such as Air India’s flights to Israel, are allowed to operate over Saudi Arabian airspace. So, there is some precedent for flights to Israel to fly over Saudi Arabia to save time and fuel.
If Saudi Arabia does not open up its airspace for El Al, then it will force the airline to operate an inefficient routing between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. In the long-run, with commercial operations, this would negatively impact El Al compared to its prospective competitors in Etihad, Emirates, flydubai, and more. All of these UAE airlines can fly over Saudi Arabia.
What aircraft will El Al use?
Using any other carrier other than El Al would be unlikely for this flight. The airline’s livery is comprised of Israel’s colors, and a waving Israeli flag is painted on the tails of El Al’s aircraft. For a historic journey like this, using any other airline except El Al would not make much sense.
El Al will also then likely use its top-notch Boeing 787 aircraft. While the 737 can operate the route easily, using a 787 with the airline’s newest hard product would give US and Israeli officials a comfortable ride to Dubai– especially if the plane has to fly around Saudi Arabia.
Do you think Saudi Arabia will open up its airspace for El Al flights? What do you think about this flight? Let us know in the comments!