- Steve Jaffe
First passenger flight from UAE arrives in Israel
In another historic first for Israeli civil aviation, an Etihad 787-9 touched down at Ben Gurion Airport early Sunday morning, October 19, after a three and half our flight from Abu Dhabi. The arrival of the first passenger flight from the UAE (Etihad sent two cargo flights to TLV earlier this year carrying Coronavirus relief supplies for the Palestinians) transported the Emerati delegation for face-to-face meetings with their Israeli counterparts.
Upon arrival, the Etihad aircraft was greeted with a traditional water cannon salute, while flags of the two countries flew from above the flight deck. A brief ceremony was held on the ramp, as summarized by Globes:
(Particpants included) Shmuel Amsalem, deputy director general of Ben Gurion Airport, and Nehama Ronen, chairperson of aviation logistics company Maman Group, which was partly responsible for the organization of the flight. "This is a special and exciting moment, which has been arranged creatively within the coronavirus restrictions. But who would have believed that we would have to transmit the footage on YouTube to convey our excitement from Tel Aviv?" Ronen said.
Amsalem greeted the flight crew in Arabic. "It is an honor for us to host you at Ben Gurion Airport, the gateway to Israel. We hope to see you operating at least one flight daily as soon as possible. We will ensure that you experience security and service of the highest standard at our airport," he said.
The plane's captain, Abdallah Salah, apologized that he had caused the invitees to have to wake up early today "But it was worth it, right?" he said. "I feel moved, and I believe that this is the start of a wonderful friendship between the two countries. If someone had told me a few months ago that I would stand and make a speech here in Tel Aviv, I wouldn't have believed it. But our heroic leaders have made it possible. I hope the day will come when all people live in peace and harmony." (Globes, 10/19/20)
Among the negotiation agenda issues to be worked during the meetings was the finalizing of an air service agreement between the two countries. The agreement, which was recently announced, will be covered in another post.