The longest-serving flight attendant for Israeli flag carrier El Al has retired after working a historic flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Hedva Opatovsky, 62, is hanging up her wings after 46 years of serving with El Al, following the first-ever known flight by a commercial Israeli airline between Israel and the UAE.
El Al flight LY972 – a nod to the UAE’s international telephone code – touched down at Abu Dhabi International Airport at 5:37 pm on Monday with a delegation of Israeli and U.S. officials to continue negotiations on the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The aircraft was painted with the word for ‘Peace’ in Arabic, English and Hebrew but observers have noted that the plane was called Kiryat Gat, an Israeli town which was formerly known as Al Faluja. Peace and the normalisation of relations with the UAE came about only after Israel agreed to stop any further annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
Peace, Hedva told Reuters is “what we wish for, always,” going onto say that the three and a half flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi was possibly the most important in her long career as a flight attendant. “It’s a good opportunity to open up other countries to make peace with us,” she continued.
LY972 was also the first-ever flight by an Israeli airline to pass through Saudi Arabian airspace. El Al secured special permission to pass through Saudi airspace just before the historic flight – permission which Saudi Arabia has extended to other El Al flights flying to UAE.
Saudi authorities got around the thorny issue of directly naming Israel by extending permission for the use of Saudi airspace to any flight flying to the UAE.
Analysts suspect the normalisation of relations and the start of regulary scheduled flights between the two countries will benefit airlines in the UAE far more than the embattled Israeli flag carrier. On Tuesday, Etihad Airways even appointed an agent in Israel to start selling tickets to Israeli citizens – something that until last week would have broken the UAE’s now rescinded Israel boycott law.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.