Hot on the heels of Morocco’s King Mohammad VI saying last week that he intended to establish official relations with Israel for the first time in two decades, Israel’s airlines are already eyeing flights between the two countries. Following the announcement out of Morocco, both El Al and Israir said they’d be keen to start flights.
Israel – Morocco flights could start within months
Following the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, Morocco is the fourth Arab nation Israel has “normalized” ties with this year. While there were extensive under-the-radar ties between the two countries in the lead-up to last week’s declaration, there were no direct flights, and the announcement provides some clear air for direct flights to begin between Morocco and Israel.
“We’re talking about re-formalizing the relations between the countries to the relations we had because there have been relations the entire time. They never stopped,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told Yedioth Ahronoth.
The Israir CEO, Uri Sirkis, was reported in The Jerusalem Post last Thursday saying,
“If all parties are serious, it will be possible to open direct lines within three months.”
The same report said El Al was also looking at running flights between Israel and Casablanca, Morocco, saying the flights would prove popular amongst Israelis. Approximately 50,000 Israelis already travel to Morocco every year. That number includes tourists and many Israelis of Moroccan origin. Direct air links will make that trip easier.
There’s no reason to believe the comments by Israir and El Al are simply hot air. Both airlines were quick to jump on opportunities created by establishing official relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Last month, El Al said it would start flying 14 times a week to Dubai from mid-December. More recently, the airline has also announced a deal with Bahrain flag carrier Gulf Air to start flying to Manama from January 7.
Israir’s first flight to Dubai landed just two weeks ago. Like El Al, Israir will run 14 flights a week to Dubai.
Not just Israeli airlines set to benefit
It’s not just Israeli airlines benefiting from the detente between Israel and many of its neighbors. Gulf carriers are already flying to Ben Gurion Airport at Tel Aviv. Dubai-based flyDubai has started running regular services between Dubai and Tel Aviv. Emirates is planning to start flying to Tel Aviv in early 2021. We’ll have to wait a bit longer for Etihad. The Abu Dhabi-based airline is slated to start flights to Israel in late March.
The quick uptake on flights between the Gulf cities and Tel Aviv suggests airlines won’t be shy about swiftly moving onto routes between Israel and Morocco. While last week’s normalization of ties between Israel and Morocco stands to benefit El Al and Israir, Morocco’s homegrown airline, Royal Air Maroc, also stands to gain.
The Casablanca-based airline recently joined oneworld and is fast emerging as one of Africa’s best airlines. Seeing it head to Tel Aviv could allow for some clever multi-city oneworld itineraries around the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, neither El Al nor Israir have laid down a definitive start date for flights between Israel and Morocco.
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