Israel’s first commercial flight to the UAE took off from Ben-Gurion Airport to Dubai International Airport on Tuesday, after Saudi Arabia granted permission for the flight to use its airspace with less than a day to spare.
The flight's 170 passengers took off on Israir flight 6H663 from Ben Gurion Airport to Dubai, in a cornerstone trip that further cements the relationship between Israel and the UAE, who signed a normalization agreement in the form of the Abraham Accords in September.
The Israeli airline initially feared it would have to cancel the flight due to a lack of Saudi approval to use its airspace - with less than 24 hours before takeoff.
The Airbus A320 aircraft used for the flight has limited range and the alternate route through the Arabian Sea would double the length of the trip to Dubai. Riyadh finally gave permission on Monday evening.
"It is exciting and surprising, we did not think it would happen so fast," Captain Hagai Canaan told Ynet from the cockpit on Tuesday.
"We did not think we would be flying over Jordan and Saudi Arabia to reach the Emirates. Outstanding. Flight time will be three hours and 23 minutes."
Gil Stav, Israir's VP of Marketing and Sales, said: "This is an historic event and we are delighted and excited to be the first Israeli airline to operate a direct commercial flight to Dubai in the Emirates."
Israir, Arkia and El Al, the Israeli airlines scheduled to operate more than 40 flights to Dubai each week, had appealed to the Prime Minister's Office, the Transportation Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority for updates on the issue of Saudi airspace, which was available to non-Israeli airlines flying to Tel Aviv.
Emirati air carrier flydubai began operating flights from Israel to Dubai on November 26.
At a ceremony last week at Ben-Gurion Airport to mark the launch of the flydubai Israel-UAE route, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We are already flying over Saudi Arabia as you know. All those flights go over Saudi Arabia, including flights by Israeli companies."
Israir is scheduled to launch two daily flights to Dubai on December 2, Arkia is set to begin its own twice daily flights from December 3 and El Al is also due to begin 14 flights per week on December 9.