El Al Airlines on Monday will fly Israel’s first flight to the United Arab Emirates by a commercial carrier, a timetable on the Israel Airports Authority’s website showed, as the countries forge ahead with a deal to normalize ties.
The direct flight between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and the UAE’s political capital of Abu Dhabi is expected to carry an Israeli delegation and accompanying officials from the United States, which brokered the August 13 accord.
El Al and smaller Israeli rival Israir had submitted bids for the flight, an aviation source said. An El Al spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The flight will be the first in two months for Israel's flag carrier, which was forced to furlough around 80 percent of its staff, after stopping all passenger traffic during the coronavirus pandemic. The future of the airline is still uncertain.
It will be staffed with three pilots and six other employees. The pilots were sent to Amsterdam to take a fitness to fly test on a flight simulator, as they have been grounded for so long.
The flight number is listed as “LY971” on the online timetable, perhaps alluding to the UAE’s country code, which is 971.
There are no official air links between Israel and the UAE, and it was unclear whether an Israeli airliner would be able to fly over Saudi Arabia, which has no official ties with Israel, to cut down on flight time.
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A U.S. government official confirmed that officials including Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Donald Trump, would be on the El Al flight departing from Tel Aviv on August 31 at 10 A.M. (0700 GMT).
The exact flight route and landing time were still being worked on, the U.S. official said.
In May, an Etihad Airways plane flew from the UAE to Tel Aviv to deliver coronavirus supplies to the Palestinians, marking the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel.
The Israel-UAE deal awaits negotiations on details such as opening embassies, trade and travel links before it is officially signed.