Historic EL AL Flight Touches Down In Abu Dhabi

Filed Under: El Al

Israel and the United Arab Emirates are launching a new era of diplomacy, and to kick that off, EL AL operated its first-ever flight to the UAE today.

EL AL touches down in Abu Dhabi

EL AL flight LY971 operated today from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. The 1,311 mile flight took just 3hr17min.

It was operated by a five year old Boeing 737-900ER with the registration code 4X-EHD. This plane was chosen over EL AL’s flagship Boeing 787-9 because the company’s 737s have anti-missile systems, while the 787s don’t.

Quite a bit of prep went into this flight:

  • The 737-900ER was specially taken out of storage to operate this flight, given that EL AL’s 737 fleet is mostly grounded
  • Since EL AL’s 737 pilots are on unpaid leave, some had to be brought back to operate this flight, which required them to do some simulator training
  • The 737 got a special paint job with “Peace” written just over the cockpit windows (in Arabic, English, and Hebrew)

The flight carried a US delegation, including Jared Kushner and Robert O’Brien, as well as an Israeli delegation to start peace talks.


Some other interesting things about the flight

In no particular order, here are a few more observations about this flight:

This flight wasn’t as historic as promised

When details of this flight first emerged, the US claimed that this would be the first scheduled commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. This wasn’t in fact the case:

  • The flight was not bookable by the general public, so this wasn’t really a “commercial” flight, but rather was a charter flight
  • If the argument is that this was the first commercial aircraft to fly between Israel and the UAE, that’s not true either; Etihad Airways recently operated some cargo flights to Tel Aviv, which were the first such flights

Don’t get me wrong, this flight was historic, and it was the first time that EL AL flew to the UAE, but this wasn’t historic in the way it was marketed.


The flight used Saudi Arabian airspace

It’s cool that the flight did end up using Saudi Arabian airspace, as there was quite a bit of debate ahead of this as to whether or not that would happen.

Historically Saudi Arabia has prevented flights to & from Israel from using its airspace, though there have been some exceptions. In this case the flight did spend almost the entire time in Saudi Arabian airspace, which shaved well over an hour off the flight time.

We’ll see whether relations between the two countries improve permanently, or if this was a special exception given the United States’ involvement in this flight.

Where are the masks?

Based on the Twitter video posted by Israel’s Director General at Ministry for Regional Cooperation, it doesn’t look like most people on the flight were wearing masks. Make of that what you will.

Bottom line

EL AL operated its first-ever flight to the UAE, as it was carrying an Israeli and US delegation. It’s cool to even see the flight operate through Saudi Arabian airspace. While the flight as such wasn’t as historic as promised (it wasn’t actually “commercial”), this is awesome to see nonetheless.

Peace is always a good thing, so here’s to hoping the talks are productive, and we soon see more cooperation between the countries (including a bilateral air agreement).

  1. Hey Lucky. Not sure if this excuses the less than adequate mask-wearing, but everyone who took the flight was tested the night before.

  2. Epic peace between the two nations, and you find time to carve out criticism about masks? Come on, even the haters got to give credit to Orange Man and his team for this.

  3. Amazing news!!! So happy.

    But where are there masks. Unacceptable not to wear them especially in media ops

  4. Way to downplay a historic flight due to the technicality of someone calling it a “first commercial flight”. Does anyone really care? It’s still a historic flight, no need to downplay it. As Charlie mentioned above everyone was tested prior to the flight. Wearing a mask on a flight where everyone got tested before is like wearing a mask inside your own home

  5. Good for them.

    OT: What’s up with the new 3x dining on the CFU? Will CSP still be 2x on dining? More like the Sapphire Spurned… and why am I paying net $250 for 3x dining on the CSR? They don’t call it a premium card for nothing lol

  6. Stop nitpicking! The fact that an El Al plane flew over Saudi Arabia and landed in Abu Dhabi would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago.

  7. @lucky, I’ve heard that Israel’s new Breathalyzer test is over 90% accurate and was used before this flight to test all the participants though haven’t found a news article to verify it

  8. @Lucky: Stop finding problems on this. It is historic and like him or not you have to give kudos to president Trump for making this happen.

  9. This is simply thrilling. Of course, peace is always a great thing, but its of personal meaning to me, as I am Jewish and live in Dubai.

  10. Bias report! Obviously it ia an election campaign gig to boost Trumps reelection.

    The only happy with this all are Jews and Israel friends, now you delete the comment!

  11. These officials get tested almost daily for Coronavirus. You do realize the whole point of a mask is in case you do have Covid *unknowingly* the mask will help prevent the virus from spreading. If you know you don’t have Covid than what’s the point of wearing a mask? What happened to thought process in this country?

  12. @Fil it doesnt need to be a sad day for the Palestinians….If they just renounced ALL VIOLENCE and agreed to recognize the Jewish state of Israel they could enjoy the same peace and benefits that Israel shares with Jordan and Egypt and now the UAE: technology cooperation, intelligence sharing, healthcare advancements, trade, etc…..It seems the Palestinians cannot do that and just continue to foment hatred and reward violence against Israelis (i.e paying terrorist salaries). Israel has already agreed to cede 90% of the disputed territories back to the Palestinians including parts of Jerusalem but they have refused those concessions in the past. So no sympathy from me for them…….

  13. @Fil what does this have to do with the Palestinians? You seem to be pushing the absurd idea that every country dealing with Israel needs to wait for the Palestinian issue to be resolved first. That’s ridiculous. Countries can have multiple agendas.

  14. @Daniel
    Exactly. The Arab world is moving on from the “Palestinian Problem”. There’s way too much to gain from Israel to be tied to the Pal’s losing cause forever. They can have peace tomorrow if they want it. But they’ve worked to hard to build an industry of hate (the only notable Palestinian industry) to turn back now. It’s really hard to un-brainwash the millions of Palestinians who have been taught to hate Israel from birth.

    Anyway the big thing to me is the KSA overflight. That signals Saudi approval of the deal, and I bet they are in advanced talks with Israel as well. Look at that flight map! Who would have thought, 30 years ago, that a flight from TLV over Jordan, KSA, and UAE would be possible??

  15. Hopefully, the Israeli deal with the UAE will not be the only one to come about. The fact that the Saudi’s allowed its airspace to be used by an El Al plane bodes well for the entire region (excluding Iran).

    When additional Arab/Middle Eastern countries follow suit, and formally recognize Israel (after “only” 72 years!) and normalize international relations, the Palestinians will have fewer countries as allies in their passionate hatred of all-things-Israel. And with fewer allies, there will likely be less support for the Palestinian’s status quo positions.

    This should eventually lead to the Palestinian people, via their political parties, to come to the conclusion that it is in the best interests of everyone to take advantage of yet another opportunity for lasting peace.

    But, as the 40+ year old political saying goes, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. And that realization may be serving as the impetus for other countries to join Egypt, Jordan, and now the UAE, in seeking normal relations with Israel.

  16. I am Catholic, but this is something the world should be proud of. As people above said, like President Trump or not…..he and his team deserve credit for this and I think it is worth giving his administration credit. This has the potential to make peace and trade deals in the region between those countries. This was historic. It is nice too see that good things can happen, even with a serious global virus.

    On a side note, it was probably the most guarded flight in protection wise outside transporting a US President. Trump would take any measures to protect Jared.

  17. Well, since masks have come up, it would seem that as leaders, you’d want to wear a mask because you are asking your citizens to. So, everyone gets YET ANOTHER example, in this case, of the “no mask” norm. Great that they were tested, etc. It’s just that I think it’s best when leaders lead. Great headlines pre-election for Kush and family.

  18. According to CDC, 94% of COVID-19 deaths had underlying medical conditions.

    Make of that what you will about wearing or not wearing masks, and the risk of the new coronavirus to otherwise healthy people.

  19. I agree with others. The fact that this El Al flight flew over a big chunk of Saudi airspace should not be downplayed. It was unthinkable in the beginning of this month.

    Given the polarization of Arab geopolitics between Saudi and Iran, I would not be surprised at all if Trump is close to brokering a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hate him or not, this is Nobel Peace Prize worthy achievement.

  20. Really lucky? u care more about technicality over this being the first flight ever or not…who cares.

    this is an incredible thing that happened. Kudos to the Trump Administration, to the UAE government, and to the Holy Land of Israel! 🙂

  21. @Daniel –

    ‘’Israel has already agreed to cede 90% of the disputed territories back to the Palestinians including parts of Jerusalem‘’ -> wont believe to that till I see that happening with my own eyes.

    ‘’Same peace and benefits that Israel shares with Jordan and Egypt‘’ -> benefits like Israelis being allowed to visit Jordan as many times as they wish without any visa required BUT Jordanians being required to get a visa any time they wish to visit Israel? And what about Israel having diverted the Jordan river path for years now, of course at its own benefits only?

    The only true reason of this ‘new chapter’ is the both American & Israeli interest to create a wide coalition against Iran within the Middle East region. All the rest is just media show.

  22. @ Jimbo

    ‘’You seem to be pushing the absurd idea that every country dealing with Israel needs to wait for the Palestinian issue to be resolved first’’ -> to be crystal clear, this is not what I meant. As I said within my previous comment, the only true reason of this ‘new chapter’ is the both American & Israeli interest to create a wide coalition against Iran within the Middle East region (all the rest is just media show) which is why, being ME myself, I do not see Qatar joining this ‘new era’.

  23. News reports are that the Saudi’s will now open their airspace to planes to/from Israel.

    If true, yet another ‘baby step’ in the warming of relations between a Middle Eastern Arab heavyweight and Israel. Stay tuned for an eventual formal recognition, like the UAE, of Israel by Saudi Arabia.

    Iran, Hammas, and the PLO are watching all this play out, and plotting on how to sidetrack it.

  24. By sheer coincidence to my post of an hour ago, Israel and Bahrain have just announced that they will normalize relations, just as the UAE did with Israel.

    The symbolism is not lost that this announcement is made on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks on America.

    Vegas should be taking bets on which ME country will be next to recognize Israel, and move to full normalization of relations. Saudi Arabia? Oman? Lebanon?

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