Israel’s Flagship Carrier El Al Set for Unprecedented UAE Flight

El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. will operate an unprecedented commercial flight to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, according to the Israel Airports Authority’s website, as an Israeli and U.S. delegation prepares to head to the Gulf Arab nation to start normalization talks.

Israel’s flagship airline, in which the government owns a golden share, is not known to have ever flown directly from Tel Aviv to the UAE. The flight set for 10 a.m. comes after the two countries agreed this month to establish diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by the U.S.

Adding to the list of breakthroughs, the flight will be the first plane registered in Israel to cross Saudi Arabian airspace on its flight path to Abu Dhabi, according to a reporter for Israel’s Yediot Ahronot. A spokesman for El Al declined to comment.

Saudi Arabia, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel, refuses to let Israeli carriers cross its airspace, lengthening the flight time to destinations to the east.

The Airports Authority’s website lists the flight to Abu Dhabi as LY 971, the same digits as the UAE’s international phone code. A Tuesday return flight is listed as LY 972, the dialing code for Israel.

An Etihad Airways cargo plane from Abu Dhabi made the first known commercial flight between the countries in May with a humanitarian shipment for the Palestinians. Several El Al pilots who had been put on leave due to the coronavirus outbreak have been called back to work and were preparing for the trip, Channel 13 said.

While both the White House and the Israeli prime minister’s office have announced plans to fly from Israel to the UAE next week, it hasn’t been clear whether El Al would be the carrier. In the past, diplomatic and other planes flying between Gulf nations and Israel made stops in a third country.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien will join the Israeli delegation next week on the first commercial flight between the two countries. Once in Abu Dhabi, talks will focus on tourism, trade, energy, health and security, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

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