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In a historic first, an El Al flight lands in Abu Dhabi

August 31 2020
3 min read
In a historic first, an El Al flight lands in Abu Dhabi
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History in the Middle East was made on Monday, as an El Al plane departed from Tel Aviv (TLV) to Abu Dhabi (AUH).

Flight LY971, a Boeing 737-900ER, carried an American and Israeli delegation to the United Arab Emirates as the U.S. seeks to normalize relations between the two countries. The flight departed just after 11 a.m. Monday and landed 43 minutes behind schedule in Abu Dhabi at 3:38 p.m., according to FlightRadar24. The flight has been billed as the first-ever commercial flight by an Israeli carrier to the UAE.

According to the AP, among those on the flight were Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and advisor. Kushner praised the Saudi Arabian government, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, for permitting the flight by El Al to fly over its airspace — another first for an Israeli carrier, according to AP.

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This was the first El Al flight since the airline suspended all flights in July.

As we reported in May, an Etihad Airways jet from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv touched down with a load of cargo destined for the Palestinian Authority.

Related: Etihad just made the first-ever known airline flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel

An El Al aircraft, which carried a U.S.-Israeli delegation to the UAE following a normalization accord, is pictured at the tarmac of the Abu Dhabi airport following the arrival of the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE on Aug. 31, 2020. (Photo by Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images)

It was a major development in the Middle East, one brought about by the extraordinary circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic. No Emirati airline had ever landed in Israel as the two countries have had no diplomatic relations.

The Associated Press reported that Etihad “operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on 19 May to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians,” and that “the flight had no passengers on board.”

Relations between Israel and Arab countries remain a highly sensitive issue; the airplane that flew to Tel Aviv bore no airline logos nor any evident national identifiers except for a registration.

An image published by the Times of Israel showed an Airbus A330 in Abu Dhabi being loaded with cargo bearing Emirati flags. Painted all white and lacking any visible Etihad logos, it bore the letters YP on its front landing gear doors, consistent with an Airbus A330-200 with the Emirati registration A6-EYP — which several fleet-tracking sites show is part of the Etihad fleet.

An official greeting message is seen on Israeli carrier El Al's first flight from Israel to the UAE on Aug. 31, 2020. (Photo by Nir Elias/AFP via Getty Images)
Featured photo by AFP via Getty Images

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