Israeli airline Arkia announced last week that it would be commencing direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai from January 3, next year. Arkia is the first Israeli carrier to announce a schedule for launching flights from Tel Aviv to the UAE since the historic signing of the normalization agreement between the two countries in September.
Arkia’s UAE operations set to go
In a further sign of the warming of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Israel’s second-largest airline Arkia has announced that direct flights from Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport to Dubai will begin on January 3, 2021. According to a report by CH-Aviation, the flights are initially scheduled until at least March. Fares for the new service will start from $149 (ILS 504), and flights will take three to four hours.
In a statement posted on Arkia’s website, CEO Oz Berlowitz said,
“The decision to open a route to Dubai was made after increasing requests from our customers, private business customers, and many requests from groups and conference organizers. The company is in continuous contact with all parties and hopes that we can even bring the line forward to mid-December this year.”
He added that the airline is also looking at the possibility of operating direct flights to Sharjah, near Dubai, and Bahrain in the near future. With a view to offering holiday packages, Arkia has signed agreements with UAE tourism companies.
Services between the two countries are still subject to approval from state and security authorities, although that is expected to be received soon.
Historic agreements open up routes
A historic peace accord between Israel and the UAE was signed on September 15. In a further development, the countries signed a bilateral air transport services agreement last week. It will enable Israeli and Emirati airlines to operate 28 scheduled flights each week between Tel Aviv and Dubai. The agreement also included 10 cargo flights every week and unlimited charter flights between Eilat Ramon airport and the UAE.
The two sides have stated their intention to quickly open embassies in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. Apart from the air services agreement, they have also signed three other bilateral agreements, including a visa waiver deal – Israel’s first with an Arab country. All of the agreements must, however, be ratified by both countries before coming into force.
Additionally, the Israeli government has recently signed an aviation agreement with Jordanian authorities to enable overflights of both countries’ airspace. The agreement will cut around 66 miles from eastbound flights and over 73 miles from westbound flights operating between Gulf countries and Asia to destinations in Europe and North America. Direct routes will cut journey times for passengers by around 20 minutes.
A milestone year for Arab-Israeli relations
In May 2020, an Etihad aircraft carrying aid for Palestine made history when it became the first to arrive in Israel from the UAE. A second aid flight took place in June. Then, in August, an El Al completed Israel’s first flight to the UAE. It was further remarkable as it was permitted to fly through Saudi Arabian airspace.
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