Etihad Airways - Israel
A perfect touchdown for Etihad Airways in Tel Aviv. Inward demand from Israel is likely to shoot up, given the 'green list'-ing announced by Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Demand is expected to take off immediately on the routes between UAE and Israel after the latter was added to Abu Dhabi’s 'Green List' earlier this week, which allows travellers from Israel not having to quarantine on arrival here.

"There is significant travel demand anticipated for business and leisure travel," Etihad Airways said in a statement. Abu Dhabi's state-owned carrier flew its first commercial flight to Tel Aviv on Tuesday, and marking the beginning of its regular services to that country.

The flow of tourists will be boosted by the fact that Israel and the UAE have two of the highest vaccination rates in the world. "The opening up of Israel-UAE services will certainly witness strong growth in traffic," said John Strickland, Director of JLS Consulting. "In particular, there will be tourism interest into the UAE from Israel."

Options on ticket rates
A one-way ticket from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on an Etihad flight will cost around Dh425.

A flydubai flight from Dubai to Tel Aviv is around Dh1,113.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will have the lowest rates of them all, with tickets at Dh303.

A few snags

After the signing of the Abraham Accords in September last, Israel and UAE announced visa free travel to facilitate the movement of tourists, diplomats and businessmen. However, after a spike in COVID-19 cases, UAE suspended its visa-free arrangement with Israel until July 1. Israelis are now required to obtain a visa to travel to the UAE, and Emiratis too likewise need a visa to travel to Israel.

Abu Dhabi-based travel agencies are seeing very little demand for Tel Aviv at the moment. "There's not much demand," said a spokesperson for Regal Tours. "People are basically travelling to their hometowns."

However, some operators are optimistic about travel to Israel taking off soon. "We expect bookings for Green List countries to rise soon," said a spokesperson for Bin Moosa Travel Agency.

More flights coming

Etihad will begin with offering two weekly flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. flydubai is already operating flights and Emirates and Air Arabia are expected to join soon.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the newest airline from the UAE, will operate its first flight to Tel Aviv on April 18. The carrier "will pursue a low price strategy which is always a strong demand stimulator," said Strickland.

The commencement of flights will be a gamechanger for UAE’s airlines, which too have been hit hard by the pandemic. It will lead to a new stream of travellers that could help Dubai and Abu Dhabi partly bounce back from the crisis.

Last year, Middle East airlines posted losses of $7.1 billion. And although airlines in the region received $4.8 billion in government aid during the period, several carriers are still at the risk of bankruptcy or business administration, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA).