Israel UAE Flight
Israel UAE Flight

The Race for the First Commercial Flights Between Israel and the UAE

The normalisation of the ties between Israel and the UAE has given rise to some significant developments: Direct flights, tourism and business activities (all as part of the bilateral agreements).

Following last week’s historic flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), numerous airlines have jumped on the new market – notably national carrier El Al and Israir – from hoarding slots and eagerly preparing to launch the route.

El Al

Earlier this week, Israeli national carrier El Al announced the launch of the first cargo flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai. The announcement came just days after the airline operated the first flight between the two countries.

The flight, which will be operated by a Boeing 747, will take-off from Tel Aviv on 16th September. Unlike the passenger flight, this cargo service will fly via Liege, Belgium before continuing on to Dubai.

EL AL Proposed Cargo flight Link from Dubai to Tel Aviv via Liege
EL AL Proposed Cargo flight Link between Tel Aviv and Dubai via Liege

In a statement, El Al said that the flight will be carrying “agricultural and high-tech equipment” from Israel to the UAE. The airline will continue operating this flight every Wednesday.

“The weekly El Al cargo flight to Dubai will enable Israeli companies connectivity in import and export from and to Dubai, as well as Asia in transfer from Dubai.”

El Al

El Al provided no reason as to why it will be operating such an indirect route to Dubai. The future of this service will be of significant diplomatic importance – providing a political (not necessarily practical) link between the countries.


Israir said that they have reserved slots for commercial flights between Tel Aviv and the UAE, as the airline gears-up for a potential passenger boom.

a plane on a runway
Picture: Flickr/Anna Zvereva

An Israir spokeswoman told the Jerusalem Post that they had applied for permission from the relevant civil aviation authorities for the flights; they booked the departure and arrival slots at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport while they were awaiting approval.

Israir has already booked eight round-trip flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai throughout October, according to a flight timetable on the Israel Aviation Authority’s website.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Saudi Arabia Open Its Airspace For Flights Between Israel and the UAE

Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow all countries to fly over its skies to reach the UAE, including Israeli carriers to the UAE.

The announcement came after a request was made by the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority to the GACA, to allow all flights to and from the UAE to fly over Saudi territory.

New Challenges for Some Gulf Carriers

The UAE’s gains could prove to be a setback for Qatar Airways in this case. In contrast to Bahrain, Morocco and Oman, it is very highly unlikely that the State of Qatar will establish diplomatic ties with Israel in the near future. For Turkish Airlines and Royal Jordanian it could be also bad news, as they have provided those profitable connections (Tel Aviv – Amman/Istanbul – MENA/Asia) in the past decade.

According to data collected from OAG and, over 1.9 million passengers were carried between Tel Aviv and Asia, Africa and Australia last year in 2019. The direct access to a new market like Israel, with a large Jewish diaspora across the globe (e.g. Melbourne), could help Emirates and Etihad to restore their sixth freedom international network via their hubs during the COVID-19 recovery (e.g. Israel – UAE – Australia). The financially weak carrier El Al could maintain their focus on the key markets, with higher yields (Israel-US and Israel-Europe) for kickstarting the decisive recovery process in the upcoming months (subject to the arrangement of a new financing plan with investors and stakeholders). 

Approximately ~ 69,400 passengers flew between Tel Aviv and the wider Middle East region in 2019 (OAG/, 2020).

The Middle East traffic was led by

  • Dubai (13,181)
  • Doha (2,610)
  • Jeddah (2,524)
  • Abu Dhabi (2,087)
  • Beirut (1,438)
Turkish Airlines is the largest foreign operator to Tel Aviv
Turkish Airlines is the largest foreign operator to Tel Aviv

Of those passengers, the majority of which were Arab citizens of Israel/Palestine, they were primarily served by Royal Jordanian via Amman, with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul second-placed.

In pre-COVID times, Tel Aviv – Amman was served up to 18 times weekly by Royal Jordanian; with an estimated 81% of Tel Aviv passengers connecting onward via Amman (e.g. Tel Aviv – Amman – Dubai, Tel Aviv – Amman – Bangkok and Tel Aviv – Amman – Hong Kong).

Cover Image: Twitter/unknown