Ben-Gurion Airport lists first-ever commercial flights to UAE

The flights are part of the normalization package recently agreed to by both Israel and the UAE

El Al Israel Airlines planes are seen on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel March 10, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
El Al Israel Airlines planes are seen on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel March 10, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
It's official - El Al will start offering the first direct commercial flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi on Monday August 31, according to Ben-Gurion airport's departures board.
The airport's website, which lists upcoming arrivals and departures, shows that the first flight will depart Tel Aviv for Abu Dhabi on Monday August 31 at 10 a.m. The first return flight will take place the following day, and is due to land at 3:15 p.m.
The route is being operated by Israel's El Al, and the first flight will transport 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 Skyshield 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.
The Embassy of Israel in the USA has tweeted the schedule, commenting: "FYI: the flight from Israel is flight number 971 (phone country code); the returning flight is 972 (phone country code)!"
Shortly after the normalization agreement between the UAE and Israel was announced last week, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented that the deal included direct flights between the two countries, with the route passing through Saudi airspace.
Saudi authorities have yet to confirm this arrangement, although nor have they denied it. Unlike a number of other countries in the region, notably Iran and Qatar, Riyadh has not issued public criticism of the normalization agreement.
The alternative to passing through Saudi airspace would require the flights to take a slightly longer route across Iraq before heading south east down the length of the Persian Gulf.
The flights won't be the first time aircraft from the UAE have landed in Israel - in May, the inaugural direct flight from Abu Dhabi landed at Ben-Gurion. However, that was a cargo flight, laden with humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Celia Jean contributed to this report.