A couple of weeks ago a historic peace deal was announced between Israel and the UAE, which will hopefully usher in a new era of diplomacy. Part of this agreement involves commercial flights being added between the two countries.
A couple of days ago I wrote about an exciting update on that front, and now there are some more fascinating details about the logistics of the flight, as EL AL won’t be using the plane I was expecting.
First commercial nonstop flight between Israel & UAE?
Earlier this week US officials announced that the first commercial nonstop flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will operate next week. The flight will be operated by EL AL, Israel’s flag carrier, and will be to Abu Dhabi. This will represent EL AL’s first flight to the UAE.
The flight is expected to carry a US delegation, headed by the United States’ First Son-In-Law, Jared Kushner, and National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien. On top of that, the flight is going to have an Israeli delegation onboard, made up of experts in aviation, banking, space, and more.
The purpose of this trip is to start negotiations to eventually sign bilateral agreements.
Now let’s go over some of the interesting updates regarding this flight, according to The Jerusalem Post (tip of the hat to Alon).
EL AL will use a Boeing 737-800 for the flight
Initially I would have assumed that EL AL would use its flagship Boeing 787-9 aircraft for the route, given what a special flight this is. However, that’s not the case.
EL AL will be using a roughly five year old Boeing 737-800 for the route, with the registration code 4X-EHD. Why is EL AL using a Boeing 737-800 for the flight?
Allegedly this is because EL AL’s 737s have Israel Aerospace Industries Sky Shields, which are intended to protect aircraft against heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles. I didn’t realize that EL AL’s 737s have these, while the 787s don’t.
Does anyone have more background on why the 737s have it, but the 787s apparently don’t?
EL AL won’t be using a 787 for this flight
This flight will require lots of preparations
The 737-800 to be used for this flight has been grounded since mid-March, so it’s being taken out of storage to operate this flight. This requires a bit of preparation, though:
- Given that it has been grounded for months, the plane itself will be doing some test flights, and already operated a 29 minute flight to & from Ben Gurion Airport today
- EL AL is bringing back senior pilots from unpaid leave; since their licenses have lapsed, they’ll be flown to Amsterdam in order to have some simulator training
Is this flight actually “historic?”
The US is referring to this as the first scheduled commercial flight between Israel and the UAE. I wonder if that’s actually case, or if the government is just confused about what constitutes a commercial flight.
Will the flight actually be sold to the general public and have non-delegation passengers onboard? That seems unlikely to me, given that presumably there aren’t many Emiratis in Israel right now, and there’s still no bilateral agreement allowing Israelis to enter the UAE.
It seems to me that it’s more likely that a commercial aircraft is being chartered for this flight.
Will this actually be a commercial flight? (EL AL 787 interior)
Even if that’s the case, that still wouldn’t be the first flight between Israel and the UAE operated by a commercial aircraft. Recently Etihad Airways operated two controversial aid flights to Tel Aviv, with one being operated by an all-white A330, and the other being operated by a standard passenger 787.
That first flight was actually historic, as it was the first nonstop flight between Israel and the UAE.
Etihad has already flown nonstop to Israel
It will probably be a while before we actually see regularly scheduled commercial flights between Israel and the UAE. Nonetheless, next week it’s expected that EL AL will operate a flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, carrying a US and Israeli delegation.
The flight will be operated by a 737-800 due to the safety equipment it has onboard, which the 787s allegedly don’t have. The plane is being taken out of storage for this flight, and the pilots also require training prior to being able to operate this flight, since they’ve also been grounded for months.
(Featured image courtesy of Jakkrit Prasertwit)