Israel’s El Al and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways have signed a memorandum of understanding covering the eventual introduction of joint codeshare services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, along with closer cooperation on cargo operations, engineering, loyalty, destination management, and use of pilot and cabin crew training facilities, Etihad said on Thursday. Etihad this week announced its intention to start daily services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv on March 28.
The deal comes some three and a half months after El Al completed the first-ever commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates following an announcement that the two countries would normalize diplomatic relations. The sides signed a formal agreement on September 15 at the White House.
Talks between the carriers’ engineering and cargo divisions would involve MRO cooperation and exploring ways to increase volumes of freighter traffic flowing into and out of Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv and across the carriers’ combined networks.
Along with codeshare operations, the teams at the Etihad Guest and El Al Matmid loyalty programs will explore reciprocal “earn and burn” opportunities for their members. Meanwhile, the airlines’ destination management teams will collaborate to encourage reciprocal tourism to Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.
Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam’s third-holiest shrine and a focus of interest for Muslim visitors from the UAE, who have until recently never had a chance to visit the site.
According to official figures, Israel saw 4.1 million tourists in 2018, compared with 3.6 million in the previous year. Israeli statistics show that Muslims accounted for 2.4 percent of the arrivals, or around 98,000 people.