Commercial flights are opening up between the UAE and Israel following the signing of the recent peace accord. Negotiations have included an agreement to set up 28 weekly direct air links between the two countries.
The Abraham Accords agreement, which set all the developments in motion, was signed between the UAE and Israel in Washington D.C. on September 15. This was followed by El Al’s first symbolic commercial flight between the two countries on August 31 and Etihad’s first flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, on October 19. Etihad has also launched a dedicated website in Hebrew for the Israeli market.
Emirates announced this week that it was introducing Tel Aviv as a new route. The first flight is scheduled to depart from Dubai at 09h40 on November 26, arriving in Tel Aviv at 11h35. This time slot offers good connections for the South African market as EK764 departs Johannesburg at 18h50 daily and arrives in Dubai at 05h05.
Emirates did not give an indication of the expected operational frequency of its Tel Aviv route in its release. Media reports have previously speculated that regular commercial flights between Israel and the UAE will only begin in January, due to the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry, so the November flight has been launched sooner than had been expected.
Emirates Flight Catering and CCL Holdings (a company founded by the head of the Jewish Council in the UAE) have also set up a production facility, called Kosher Arabia, which is expected to start producing kosher food in January. Bloomberg reports that this facility has been established to meet growing demand in the Gulf nation for kosher meal options after the recent diplomatic breakthrough with Israel.
Travel Vision associate David Bradshaw says: “The more choice the better” when it comes to airlines servicing particular routes. He says there is generally a lot of group traffic on the Tel Aviv route due to the popularity of Holy Land tours, and Emirates’ ability to grow its group market share on the route will be dependent on the flexibility of the booking terms and conditions that it is willing to offer. David says due to the length of time it takes to gather group deposits, flexible terms are vital (even more so than price) for the conversion of group bookings.