Etihad Airways became the first Gulf-based airline to fly to and from Israel on a commercial passenger flight, as the Abu Dhabi carrier’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed in Tel Aviv on October 19, 2020.

The flight, operated by Etihad’s Boeing 787 (registered as A6-BMH), landed at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) at 6:58 AM local time (UTC +3) and departed back towards Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) at 10:18 AM local time (UTC +3). The flight EY9608 landed in the United Arab Emirates capital two hours and 49 minutes later, symbolizing the first commercial passenger flight operated by a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) directly to Israel.

Previously, the Abu Dhabi flag carrier conducted cargo-only flights to Israel, bringing aid to Palestinians in May 2020, with a now-retired Airbus A330. On a separate occasion in August 2020, Israel’s flag carrier El Al flew select passengers on a Boeing 737-900ER from TLV to AUH.

“As a travel trade mission, the flight will bring a group of tourism industry leaders, key corporate decision-makers, travel agents, and cargo agents, along with media to experience Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE, at the invitation of Etihad Airways and representatives of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry,” read Etihad’s statement on its first commercial flight to Israel.

The increased flight activity between the two countries marks a warming diplomatic relationship between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The two countries established diplomatic ties for the first time ever in mid-August 2020, and signed the Abraham Accords to “maintain and strengthen peace in the Middle East” on September 15, 2020. 

Another UAE-based airline, Emirates, is also planning its own flights between the two countries in 2021.

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Emirates received the formal authorization from Ben Gurion Airport to start operating between the United Arab Emirates and Israel from January 2021.