Arkia, Israel’s second-largest airline, has announced direct flight services to Dubai from January 3, 2021, starting at $149 (approx. Dh547) for a one-way ticket.
The announcement is the first made by an Israeli airline for scheduled direct commercial flights to the UAE since the historic peace accord was signed between the two countries on September 15.
Last week, Etihad Airways launched the first commercial flight from the UAE to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv to become the first Gulf-based carrier to operate a commercial passenger flight to and from Israel. The flight arrived without passengers but later ferried an Israeli travel and tourism delegation to Abu Dhabi.
On August 31, Israeli national carrier El Al announced the launch of the first cargo flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai. The announcement came just a few days after the airline operated the first flight between the two countries that carried several top Trump administration officials escorting Israeli government officials to Abu Dhabi for talks with their Emirati counterparts.
Oz Berlowitz, CEO of Arkia, has said in a statement that the decision to start direct flights to Dubai was made after “increasing requests from the airline’s customers, private business clients and many requests from groups organizing conferences”. The flight will cover the distance between Tel Aviv to Dubai in three to four hours.
The Israeli airline is also exploring the possibility of launching flights to Bahrain and Sharjah. The flight lines are pending approval from authorities, which is expected to be issued soon, the statement said.
Arkia has signed deals with tourism companies in the UAE to offer holiday packages.
Arkia’s announcement came soon after the two countries agreed to enable 28 weekly direct flights between their airports.
The carrier said it would initially operate the Tel Aviv-Dubai route daily from January 3, running to March 2021. Arkia’s reservations engine indicates that Embraer 195s will be operated on the route. The airline’s fleet also includes Airbus A321neo twinjets.
Alongside the air services agreement with the UAE, the Israeli government has recently signed a pact with Jordanian authorities to enable overflights of both countries’ airspace. According to Iata, the agreement will cut an average of 106km from eastbound and 118km from westbound flights operating between Gulf countries and Asia to destinations in Europe and North America. Direct routes will trim passengers’ journey times by about 20 minutes.
Last week, a senior UAE delegation made a landmark visit to Israel, seeking to facilitate the reciprocal opening of embassies in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE delegation has signed four bilateral agreements with Israel, including a visa-waiver agreement.
This visa exemption treaty, which needs to be ratified by both countries before coming into force, is Israel’s first such agreement with an Arab country.
On Thursday, the Knesset approved Israel’s normalization deal with the UAE by an overwhelming majority, all but ensuring that it will be ratified in the near future.