An Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 is currently enroute to Ben Gurion Airport, which marks the second time ever that the airline is flying to Israel.
Etihad’s controversial first flight to Israel
Israel and the United Arab Emirates don’t have diplomatic relations, though the two countries do seem to be cooperating a bit more recently. On May 19, Etihad Airways operated a cargo-only flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv.
An Etihad A330 was carrying 16 tons of cargo for Palestinians, including ventilators and other humanitarian aid. While this seemed like a nice gesture on the surface, it ended up backfiring somewhat.
Palestine initially rejected the aid, as it was claimed that the UAE didn’t coordinate the arrangement directly with Palestine, but rather did so with Israel. Palestine viewed this simply as “a cover for normalization.”
As the Palestinian Health Minister explained at the time:
“The UAE has not coordinated with us regarding the medical aid, and we reject to receive it without coordination. We are a sovereign country, and they should have coordinated with us first.”
It’s my understanding that the aid did end up going to the Gaza Strip.
Etihad Airways flies to Israel again
Even though the direct distance between the two airports is about 1,300 miles, the flight is expected to take around four hours, given the detours the plane has to make due to airspace restrictions to & from Israel. The plane will likely fly roughly 2,000 miles, about 50% further than the direct distance.
What’s the purpose of this flight? The airline is once again trying to deliver aid to Palestine. It’s not known how much cargo the plane is carrying this time around, and the exact details of the arrangement aren’t known either.
I would assume that this time around the UAE and Palestinian authorities coordinated directly, since I assume the UAE doesn’t want a similar situation to what happened last time.
From an aviation standpoint, there’s another interesting thing about this flight. The first A330 that Etihad flew to Israel was in an all white livery, so it wasn’t obvious that this was an Etihad plane. This time around the 787-9 delivering the cargo is in the full Etihad livery, so this will be the first time a plane in the Etihad livery touches down in Israel.
Etihad Airways is operating the second-ever nonstop flight by an airline between the UAE and Israel. Hopefully this time around Etihad has more success with actually getting the aid to the intended recipient.
(Tip of the hat to @charlie_laifer)