Israel and the United Arab Emirates are planning direct flights between their states. This is particularly interesting for the airlines of the Emirates. It could also harm one airline.
In the midst of the corona crisis, something historic happened. On May, 21 and June, 9, two Etihad aircraft landed in Tel Aviv. The first one was an Airbus A330 with registration number A6-EYP, which had a neutral white paint scheme. The second time, a Boeing 787-9 with registration A6-BNA was openly displayed in the full paint scheme of the gulf carrier.
What would be an everyday event at most airports was a sensation for Israel. The country and the United Arab Emirates do not maintain diplomatic relations. And so there are no flights between the states. That’s changing now.
El Al would have to take a huge detour
On Thursday (August, 13) the United Arab Emirates and Israel announced that they would establish diplomatic relations. They face «many common challenges and will mutually benefit from this historic achievement», they said. However, the deal brokered by the USA does not only involve the establishment of embassies in the countries. The declaration explicitly mentions the inclusion of «direct flights» among many other areas of cooperation such as tourism development.
Emirates and Etihad could thus offer flights from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Tel Aviv in the future, El Al from Tel Aviv to the Persian Gulf. For the Israeli national airline, however, the flights are not incredibly interesting. Since neither Saudi Arabia nor Iraq grants Israel overflight rights, El Al would have to fly to the United Arab Emirates with a huge detour.
Turkish Airlines strong in Israel
Etihad and Emirates could benefit doubly from the diplomatic thaw. So far Turkish Airlines is number two in Israel after El Al in terms of seating capacity. Many Israelis transfer to long-haul flights in Istanbul if they want to travel to destinations that no airline serves directly from Tel Aviv.
85 percent of the passengers who travel from Israel to the Turkish metropolis are transfer passengers to Europe or Asia. Now Abu Dhabi and Dubai are becoming alternatives.