The United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Airways this week launched a Hebrew-language website amid high hopes for burgeoning tourist and business trade in the wake of a normalization agreement signed between Israel and the UAE last month.
“Welcome from Abu Dhabi,” greets users as they enter the website, with different sections on safety protocols and other destinations offered by the airline also appearing in Hebrew.
Direct flights were set to begin this month, but an Israeli official on Tuesday said they will be postponed until January because of the coronavirus.
Transport Ministry director-general Ofer Malka told Army Radio that he expected an aviation deal to be signed in the coming days, adding that there was also work being done to ensure the safety of Israeli travelers.
“In the coming days, we will sign the aviation agreement with the United Arab Emirates. We are also working on the security aspect, approving the fields there for the arrival and departure of Israelis,” Malka said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Transportation Minister Miri Regev said Israel and the UAE are working hard to get direct flights between the countries off the ground.
Israeli carrier Israir announced last month that it will also begin offering direct flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Abu Dhabi. Israeli national carrier El Al will also reportedly offer flights on the route.
Local authorities in Abu Dhabi have instructed all hotels in the city to prepare kosher food options ahead of the expected influx of tourists from Israel.
Earlier this week, an Etihad Airways passenger plane from the United Arab Emirates flew over Israel for the first time.
The flight, on its way from Milan to Abu Dhabi, was the first to traverse Israeli airspace as part of an aviation agreement inked last week between Israel and Jordan to allow airlines to fly over both countries’ territories en route to various destinations. The deal is expected to shorten regional flight times.
“Captain, we are thrilled and honored to welcome you to overfly Israel,” an Israeli air traffic controller is heard telling the Etihad Airways pilot in an audio clip released by the Transportation Ministry. “This is a historic moment we have all been waiting for. We hope it will inspire the whole region and mark the beginning of a new era, inshallah [God willing].”
The pilot responded: “Inshallah, thank you, the honor is ours.”
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) October 14, 2020
Two Etihad cargo flights carrying coronavirus aid for Palestinians flew directly from the UAE to Israel earlier this year, before the two countries agreed to normalize diplomatic ties.