Israeli airline El Al was chosen to carry out the historic first commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates, according to Israeli media.
The decision comes after Israel's government asked the country's airlines to submit bids for a special flight to carry an Israeli delegation and top aides to US President Donald Trump to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday.Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize relations under a US.-brokered deal announced on August 13, and talks on cementing the agreement are due to be held on Monday in Abu Dhabi.
The Israeli delegation will be lead by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week. Ben-Shabbat will be joined by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, US Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and other US officials.While there was some media speculation that El Al was designated to fly the Israeli delegation and would do by going for the first time over Saudi territory. El Al rejected the report.
El Al and its smaller rival Israir both submitted bids for what would be the first flight by an Israeli commercial carrier to the Gulf state, the aviation source said, stating that a decision would be made later on Thusday.
Ultimately El Al was chosen, and will fly Israeli and US officials on the Boeing 737, chosen over the Dreamline 787, as the latter is not yet equipped with the Israel Aerospace Industries's Skyshiled systems, according to Ynet. As part of the security requirements, El Al was required to set up an aircraft with the protection system manufactured by IAI.
El Al has brought back three senior pilots from unpaid leave prior for training prior to the historic flight. Pilots will fly to Amsterdam as part of a licensing simulator where they will undergo training and testing in order to renew their licenses, according to Israeli media.
Additionally, the plane, which is a Boeing 4X-EHD named after the Israeli city Kiryat Gat, will also undergo “training,” and will be taken on small monitoring flights prior to delegations’ trip to the UAE to check that the plane's systems, as it has been grounded due to the coronavirus outbreak since March 25.
The decision to establish the historic flight was made because of the normalization agreement with the UAE and it has nothing to do with the continuing contractual matters that are still in a legal dispute between the pilots and El Al management, a source from the pilot's committee told Ynet.In May, an Etihad Airways plane flew from the UAE to Ben-Gurion Airport to deliver coronavirus supplies to the Palestinians, marking the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel.
Reuters and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.