Israel’s El Al just made a historic first flight to the UAE – here's what it was like onboard
- El Al Israel Airlines flew the first commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Monday with US President Donald Trump's son-in-law onboard.
- The two Middle Eastern countries just announced a peace deal in August that would establish formal relations between the two.
- Saudi Arabia aided the flight by allowing the aircraft to use its airspace.
- Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.
An El Al Israel Airlines aircraft made history on Monday as it flew the first commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The historic flight was made possible by a new peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates seeking to normalise relations. Only 2,000 kilometres separate Ben Gurion International Airport from Abu Dhabi but prior to Monday, no commercial airliner had ever made the trek, with geopolitical conflict in the region blocking access for any Israeli or Emirati passenger carrier to serve each other's country.
Onboard the Boeing 737-900ER for the first flight was a US and Israeli delegation with US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner joined by US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien and Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat. Trump placed Kushner in charge of Middle East peace with Israel's relationship with its neighbouring Arab nations taking priority.
Israeli passenger aircraft are typically prohibited from flying over Saudi Arabia with Air India making history in 2018 when it flew to Israel via the kingdom's airspace, Reuters reported.
Here's what it was like onboard the historic flight.
An El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 737-900ER was used for the flight, departing Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday morning bound for the airline's newest destination, Abu Dhabi.
It was the first time "Abu Dhabi" or any city in the UAE was featured on Ben Gurion International's departure board for commercial airlines.
The plane proudly wore its blue and white colors in the style of the Israeli flag but over the cockpit was a new addition, the word "peace" written in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.
The pandemic had largely grounded El Al as Israel's border was closed to foreigners early on and remains closed to this day so the flight would give the opportunity for the airline to stretch its legs.
Face masks were also customised for the event.
The Israeli delegation lead by National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat was joined by a US delegation lead by Jared Kushner – a senior advisor to US President Donald Trump.
The flight was the first physical symbol of the newly-announced peace accords between Israel and the UAE, only the third Arab country to establish ties with the Jewish state.
Only 18 days had passed between the announcement of the agreement and the flight.
Kushner – as the deal's broker – was eager to get the ball rolling on normalising relations with the in-person trip to the UAE, joking that the plane should fly faster to Abu Dhabi to speed up the process.
Onboard the aircraft, each seat had a headrest cover with "making history" written in English, Arabic, and Hebrew...
...and passengers were given a placard to commemorate the event.
For most, if not all of the crew onboard, this would be the most important flight of their career.
Pilots would take the Boeing 737 where no El Al aircraft has gone before over formerly restricted airspace for the Israeli airline.
The planned route would take the Boeing 737 towards Jerusalem before flying over the West Bank, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even Oman before reaching touching down in the UAE's capital city.
The leaders of the US and Israeli delegation occupied the business class cabin with Kushner, Ben Shabbat, and O'Brien occupying the first row.
Overhead screens kept the passengers abreast of their historic route as they made the historic crossing over the Arabian Peninsula...
...while flight attendants began the in-flight service.
The 737 began its descent into Abu Dhabi just under three hours from its departure while over Saudi Arabia, touching parts of Oman as it approached.
Landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport for the first time, El Al had inaugurated its newest destination.
Once on the ground, the aircraft headed to the VIP terminal at Abu Dhabi International for a reception upon arrival.
Pilots mounted the flags of each represented country – the US, UAE, and Israel – as they taxied to the terminal.
The aircraft had arrived with the flight number LY 971, the country code for the UAE.
The Emiratis had literally rolled out the red carpet for the delegation with carpet-lined airstairs.
Kushner gave a speech after the jet touched down at Abu Dhabi International Airport where he thanked Saudi Arabian leader Mohammed bin Zayed for letting them cross Saudi Arabian airspace and marked the importance of the flight as another step towards peace.
"While this peace was forged by its leaders, it is overwhelming desired by the people," Kushner said of the agreement.
Source: Times of Israel
The delegation stayed in Abu Dhabi for one night, returning the next day to Israel with the callsign LY 972, the Israeli country code.
Only two Arab airlines currently serve Israel: Royal Jordanian and Egypt's Air Sinai.
Normalization between the UAE and Israel opens up opportunities for El Al to connect its homeland with the two of the most popular and extravagant destinations in the Middle East: Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Israel has long suffered from a lack of connectivity from Middle Eastern airlines, which pride themselves on connecting the world through mega-hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha, but don't serve the Jewish state.
Eithad and Emirates – the UAE's top carriers – can benefit from a new market in Israel, which sees thousands of visitors and pilgrims from over the world.
El Al is also presented with an opportunity to use the potential easing of airspace restrictions to open new routes to the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia.
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