Egypt's Flag Carrier Starts Direct Flights to Tel Aviv, in First Since 1979 Peace Accord

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EgyptAir Boeing 737-800 aircraft landing in Athens, in 2019.
EgyptAir Boeing 737-800 aircraft landing in Athens, in 2019.Credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto

Egypt's national carrier opened on Sunday a flight route from Cairo to Tel Aviv, weeks after September’s inaugural meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi in Sinai.

The EgyptAir flight, which left Cairo on Sunday morning, is the first official EgyptAir arrival in Israel since the signing of the 1979 peace accord. Previously, flights between Israel and Egypt had been operated by Air Sinai, a subsidiary of EgyptAir, which carried no national flags or identification.

The EgyptAir route will operate four flights a week.

Following Bennett’s meeting with Sissi, an Israeli official said that Israel's U.S.-brokered normalization deals with several Arab states signed last year made it easier for the Egyptians to be more public about their communication with Israel. 

EgyptAir’s decision to run branded flights to Israel also comes about a month after the Taba border crossing between Israel and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula returned to full activity, after being subject to many coronavirus restrictions.

In 2020, a total of 34,000 Israelis entered Sinai through Taba, compared to nearly half a million in 2019.

The crossing fully reopened on September 13, less than a month after Jerusalem lowered its official threat warning for the peninsula, where members of several militant groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, have been active.

The change came after a meeting between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Abbas Kamel, the head of Egyptian intelligence in mid-August, with an announcement by the National Security Council that the level of terrorism threats off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula and the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh had dropped from level one – meaning high-risk – to level three. However, the risk level in the northern Sinai remains at one.

In April, Abu Dhabi state carrier Etihad Airways began direct commercial passenger flights from the United Arab Emirates capital to Tel Aviv, and in July Israir and El Al flights from Tel Aviv landed in Marrakesh, inaugurating the first direct commercial flights between the two countries. 

According to Morocco World News, both Royal Air Maroc, the country’s national airline, and budget carrier Air Arabia will begin direct flights linking Tel Aviv to Marrakech and Casablanca this month.

Israelis, many of Moroccan descent, have routinely traveled to Morocco since the relaxation of restrictions in the 1990s, but via third countries.

On September 30, Bahraini national carrier Gulf Air inaugurated a new route between Tel Aviv and Manama.

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