Airliner with VIPs arrives at Ben Gurion Airport, UAE Ambassador hails the new service as a sign of growing peace.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
The first commercial passenger Arab airline flight from Abu Dhabi to Israel landed in Tel Aviv Tuesday with Etihad Airways flight flight 598 making its historic touch down at Ben Gurion International Airport.
Etihad has flown several test flights to Israel in the past year including two cargo flights with coronavirus relief supplies for the Palestinians, but Tuesday’s flight marked the inauguration of Etihad’s regular service between the two countries.
The flight carried several VIPs including Mohamed Al Khaja, the UAE’s first ambassador to Israel, Eitan Na’eh, head of mission at the Embassy of Israel in Abu Dhabi, and Tony Douglas, chief executive of Etihad Airways, the UAE newspaper The National reported, adding that all passengers and crew had been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“I am overwhelmed by emotions while on board the first flight inaugurated by the UAE’s Etihad Airways between Abu Dhabi and Israel. This is an additional historical separation in the web of the growing relations between the two countries,” Na’eh tweeted in Arabic.
The UAE ambassador spoke at a short shortly after the arrival.
“Today marks the inaugural flight of Etihad Airways from our beloved capital, Abu Dhabi, to Tel Aviv, the flight on which I have arrived to begin my duties as the first ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the state of Israel,” Al Khaja said.
“Since the signing of the Abraham Accords between the UAE and Israel last summer, the two countries have worked together to embark upon a new and dynamic era of cooperation,” Al Khaja said. “Israel and the UAE have moved swiftly to make the bold vision that first underpinned the accords a reality.”
“As we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic there will be plenty of reasons to visit us in the UAE,” the ambassador said. “We look forward to welcoming Israelis with true Emirati friendship and hospitality … today, we share a commitment to building a warm peace.”
Al Khaja finished his comments by saying in Hebrew “I am happy to be here.”
Etihad will operate twice-weekly flights using Boeing 787 aircraft and will expand that to seven flights a week beginning in June, the website SimplyFlying reported. Along with Etihad and El Al, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will also begin regular service between Tel Aviv and the UAE later this month and also plans to ramp up to seven weekly flights by the summer. Al Khaja noted that Emirates Airlines and Air Dubai will also start flights to Tel Aviv in the near future.
“In a year that’s seen tourism crippled and the aviation industry face its biggest ever crisis, it’s nice to see history being made this morning,” tweeted The National travel reporter Hayley Scottie, who was on the flight.