On Sunday, a flydubai Boeing 737 touched down in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, ready to transport tourists back to the UAE. The UAE carrier successfully operated the return flight carrying the airline’s first tourists to fly directly between the two nations on a special charter flight. There was no water-canon or celebration upon arrival as the route’s official launch won’t take place until November 26th.
Commercial charter flight
flydubai’s flight FZ8194 landed safely in Dubai at 17:42 after just under three hours in the air. For almost the first time in history, a direct flight between Dubai and Israel carried tourists rather than government officials. The flight crossed Jordan and Saudi Arabia before heading across the Persian Sea and finally landing in Dubai. Upon arrival, the Israeli tourists filled in health forms and took part in mandatory COVID-19 testing.
flydubai described the flight as a “commercial charter flight” as the route’s official launch is November 26th. From the 26th, there are 28 weekly slots available between the UAE and Israel. Budget carrier flydubai will take up just some of these slots with Israel’s EL AL and Israir as well as Etihad and Emirates snapping up the remaining slots.
Although flydubai’s flight does mark the opening up of routes between the two nations, it isn’t the first commercial flight connecting the two. In October, Etihad operated the first commercial flight to and from Israel, following in the footsteps of El Al, which, in August, flew a single commercial flight to the UAE.
The Abraham Accord
The sudden opening of airspace comes after the signing of the Abraham accord on September 15th, 2020. The agreement covers everything from scientific discoveries to trade, education, technology, and investments. Of course, it also means increased cooperation between airlines, and previously blocked airspace is now free. While the agreement has obviously enabled the new direct route, it will likely benefit the whole of Middle East aviation.
The large number of Jewish people living worldwide will create a strong market for Sixth freedom flights from Israel connecting through the UAE to the rest of the world. Dubai is ideally placed to offer connections from Israel to Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Who will benefit?
If these strong connections do happen over the coming months, the only airline that might suffer is Qatar Airways. There are currently no real diplomatic relations between the two nations. However, Qatar may be forced to consider a deal with Israel if Qatar Airways finds itself getting left behind.
The result would be greater connectivity across the entire Middle East region. Of course, with no deal between Israel and Qatar, Etihad, Emirates, El Al, and flydubai are likely to benefit the most in the short term.
What do you think of the Abraham accord? Do you think the new deal will force other countries to open up their airspace to Israel? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments.