Israeli airline makes historic flight to UAE

Credit: El Al/Instagram

El Al has completed the first flight of an Israeli airline to a Gulf Arab country, in the wake of an August rapprochement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The longstanding enmity between most Arab states and Israel has precluded any flights between them but an agreement between Israel and the UAE was brokered by the US.

The El Al flight, LY971 from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s federal capital, was undertaken by one of the Israeli carrier’s Boeing 737-900s. It carried a joint US-Israeli delegation and boarding passes carried the flags of the three countries with “Making history”  in Hebrew, Arabic and English stamped on them.

The flight was also notable for being the first Israeli commercial flight being given permission by Saudi Arabia to cross the latter country’s airspace. That enabled the flight time to be cut to 3 hours 20 minutes, rather than the estimated seven hours if the aircraft had been forced to fly from Israel around the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE continue their blockade of Qatar, an Arab neighbor, because of its relationship with Iran. That blockade, of more than two years, means Qatar Airways must fly longer routes because it has been banned from Saudi and UAE airspace—a move that is being challenged by the Qatar government as a contravention of the ICAO rules under the Chicago Convention.

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.