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Etihad Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Israel’s El Al for Codeshare and “Deeper Cooperation”

Etihad Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Israel’s El Al for Codeshare and “Deeper Cooperation”

Etihad Airways is wasting no time exploring business opportunities in Israel after the country normalized diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). On Thursday, Etihad said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel’s loss-making El Al Airlines which includes the possibility of an extensive codesharing agreement, along with cooperation cargo, engineering, loyalty, destination management and even pilot and cabin crew training.

The deal, which was signed via Zoom call between Etihad chief executive Tony Douglas and El Al’s CEO Gonen Usishkin, comes just days after the Abu Dhabi-based airline announced plans to start direct flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv from March 31, 2021.

The UAE and Israel agreed to normalize relations in August and signed an accord at a ceremony at the White House in Washington DC just a month later. Etihad became the first airline in the Gulf Cooperation Council to operate a direct commercial passenger flight to Tel Aviv on October 19.

Months earlier, Etihad also became the first commercial airline in the UAE to have officially flown a direct flight to Israel when it delivered medical supplies destined for the Palestinian Authorities. The aid package, however, ended up being rejected by Palestinian leaders who saw it has an attempt by the emirates to curry favour with Israel.

“This MOU is the foundation of what we envision will be a strong ongoing relationship between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv,” commented Douglas after the signing took place. “We look forward to examining ways in which the two flag carriers – Etihad and EL AL – can work more closely together to improve business operations and enhance the experience for our guests.”

An air services agreement signed between the two countries allows UAE-registered airlines to operate a total of 28 weekly flights to Tel Aviv and an unlimited number of flights to Eilat. The deal is set to benefit the UAE more because airlines like Etihad, Emirates and flydubai have extensive route networks beyond the Middle East for connecting traffic.

Along with a codeshare agreement, the two airlines are exploring reciprocal earn and burn opportunities between the Etihad Guest frequent flyer programme and El Al’s Matmid loyalty programme. The two airline’s cargo and engineering divisions will also look at ways of increasing “cooperation”.

In addition, there is the possibility of combining pilot and cabin crew training. Etihad has already opened its massive state of the art training facilities to other airlines as part of a new business venture.

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