The first direct commercial flight from Israel to Bahrain has successfully taken place this Wednesday. An Israir-operated flight took off from Tel Aviv and flew direct to Manama, Bahrain’s capital.
It represents the first time in history a commercial flight has flown direct between the two nations. The flight also notably passed through Saudi airspace after both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia opened up airspace access to Israel earlier in the month.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
The flight departed early morning at 07:55 from Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv. With a journey time of less than 2 hours 30 minutes, the plane touched down at Bahrain International Airport at 10:17 local time (GMT+3). Soon after landing, Israeli Broadcasting Corporation commented:
“For the first time, an airplane belonging to Israir Company used Saudi airspace on a flight to Bahrain.”
There was no immediate comment from either government after the flight landed. The event was not reserved any special ceremonial touches, unlike last month’s high-profile flight to UAE which carried senior officials including Jared Kushner, the U.S presidential advisor.
However, Israel media reported that a delegation of Israeli officials was onboard the flight. Bahraini government officials and state media have not responded for comment. Likewise, the U.S embassy in Manama, Bahrain, has also stayed quiet.
Why are direct flights now running?
US-led political efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab nations have picked up pace in recent months. In August, this culminated in the agreement of the historic Israel-UAE accords. The deal saw other Arab countries follow suit and move towards normalizing relations with Israel.
Prior to the new arrangements, traveling from Israel to other Arab nations like Bahrain proved extremely difficult. Many countries would also refuse access to visitors with passports stamped by Israeli border control. Since Israel and the UAE agreed on a deal for landing permission in August, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain followed accordingly.
With political ties improving between Israel and the Arab world, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement:
“We discussed how we might quickly add content to the agreements between Bahrain and Israel and turn this peace into economic peace, technological peace, tourist peace, peace in all of these fields.”
While there hasn’t been any public acknowledgment of the flight on behalf of officials, Netanyahu and Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa shared a phone call on Tuesday, the evening before the flight.
Details of the plane
The aircraft making the flight was an Airbus 320-232, one of four such models in the Israir fleet. The plane is less than five years old and was delivered to Israir in May 2016. The Airbus 320 range is noted as one of the most reliable planes around with an exceptional safety record. In 2019, the plane eclipsed the Boeing 737 as the highest-selling aircraft in the world.
Have you found it difficult to travel out of Israel to other Middle East nations? How pleased are you with the recent developments?