El Al Makes First Passenger Flight between Israel, UAE
The first commercial passenger flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates took off from Tel Aviv on Monday morning, carrying government officials headed for consultations with their Emirati counterparts on ways to begin the normalization of ties. Also aboard were Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, and Robert O’Brien, head of the US National Security Council. The surprise normalization agreement, announced at the White House on August 13, was shepherded by the Trump Administration. El Al apparently assigned the flight numbers according to the country dialing codes. The outgoing leg is Flight 971, the code for the UAE, while the return leg is Flight 972, the code for Israel. The Boeing 737-900 making the flights has the word for “peace” in Hebrew, Arabic and English emblazoned above the cockpit windows. It is believed that Saudi Arabia gave permission to use its airspace, although no one has been willing to say this on the record. An overflight cuts the time in the air from some seven hours to just a little more than three. The outgoing flight was also absent from the general departures screen at Ben-Gurion Airport and the airport’s online departures page. El Al Captain Tal Becker, a 25-year veteran of the airline and chief pilot of its 737 fleet, said it was a “very special feeling” to be making the flight. He, like others among the crew, had been inactive for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic and was called back last week to make preparations, including a refresher flight.