El Al, Etihad pledge further air travel cooperation

The memorandum of understanding is the latest development in UAE-Israel ties following the normalization agreement.

al-monitor An Etihad Airways plane carrying a delegation from the United Arab Emirates on a first official visit lands at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on Oct. 20, 2020.  Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images.

Nov 20, 2020

Airlines from the United Arab Emirates and Israel have signed a cooperation pledge as business ties between the two states continue to develop following their normalization deal.

Etihad Airways and El Al Israel Airlines signed a memorandum of understanding, Etihad announced Thursday. The memorandum is geared toward exploring several ways in which the airlines can cooperate. This includes codeshare agreements whereby two airlines offer the same flight for booking, reciprocal frequent flyer programs and cargo trade between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, according to a press release.

Etihad Airways is based in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, while El Al is based in Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv. Both are the flagship airlines of their respective countries.

Israel and the UAE established diplomatic relations in September in an agreement brokered by the United States. Bahrain soon followed and recognized Israel and Gulf-Israel ties in general have improved in recent years. Since the agreement, numerous companies in the UAE and Israel have signed agreements pledging to do business together. Tourists are also now traveling between the two countries.

Air travel is a major part of the countries’ newly established relations. For years, Israeli planes could not fly over many Arab states’ airspace or land in their airports. Etihad announced this week that it would start daily services to Israel in March 2021. The budget carrier flydubai will also start daily flights between the Emirates’ largest city and Tel Aviv this month.

Both El Al and Etihad have suffered major financial setbacks this year as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on International travel.