When Etihad Airways Flight No. 9607 touched down at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday morning, it carried along momentous historic significance. It became the first commercial passenger flight from a United Arab Emirates carrier to land in Israel, according to the Associated Press.
The two-hour and 56-minute flight, which traveled from Abu Dhabi, is proof of the strengthening relationship between the UAE and Israel since diplomatic ties were established in August.
The Abu Dhabi-based national airline continued its historic route later on Monday with a three-and-a-half-hour return trip to Abu Dhabi on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, this time with Israeli travel and tourism officials on board, Etihad said in a release, calling it a “travel trade mission.” Those representatives will return home on Oct. 21.
“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,” the workEtihad Aviation Group chairman, Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, said in the press release. “We are just starting to explore the long-term potential of these newly forged relationships, which will be sure to greatly benefit the economies of both nations, particularly in the areas of trade and tourism, and ultimately the people who call this diverse and wonderful region home.”
In addition to the flights, Etihad also launched a Hebrew website for the Israeli market, making it the first non-Israeli airline in the Middle East to do so. The dedicated site is also available in English.
Etihad tweeted Monday, “Today, we make history. Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning…” That future could potentially include 28 commercial flights between the nations, according to Al Jazeera, which reported that a transportation ministry official said an agreement could be signed on Tuesday.
This all comes following the signing of the Abraham Accords between the UAE and Israel in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15.
While this was the first commercial passenger flight, several other flights have taken place. A chartered El Al plane — considered a “symbolic first direct flight” — traveled from Israel to Abu Dhabi on Aug. 31 with diplomats on board. Back in May, an unmarked Etihad cargo plane brought 14 tons of supplies from Dubai to Israel to help fight COVID-19.
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