Abu Dhabi state carrier Etihad Airways on Tuesday launched direct commercial passenger flights from the United Arab Emirates capital to Tel Aviv — the latest direct air link between the two countries that established diplomatic relations last year.
UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah and Israel's head of mission to the UAE Eitan Na'eh were both on the historic inaugural flight.
"As our countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have much to look forward to in commercial, diplomatic, technological, health, and tourism exchanges," Khaja was quoted as saying by UAE state news agency WAM.
Tony Douglas, the CEO of Etihad, has also voiced his excitement after the arrival of the flight to Ben Gurion Airport.
“Today is a hugely significant moment in Etihad’s history, as we operate our first scheduled commercial flight into Tel Aviv. Last year, we witnessed the UAE and Israel make history when signing the Abraham Accords, and we are tremendously excited about the opportunities this poses to Etihad, and our home Abu Dhabi.
Etihad said it would initially offer two weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, which has placed Israel on its green list of countries, meaning visitors will not need to quarantine due to the coronavirus.
The UAE and fellow Gulf state Bahrain normalized ties with Israel last September as part of a U.S.-brokered agreement.
After the signing of the agreement, the Gulf Arab state become a popular destinations for Israeli tourists despite the prevalent coronavirus pandemic and the consequent disruption to global travel, thanks in part to the two countries' inoculation drives, which are considered to be the world's fastest COVID-19 vaccination programs.