UAE-Israel Business Leaders Summit
UAEand Israel airline chiefs are sure of one thing - demand exists. And it's a matter of time before this gets tapped. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Passenger traffic between UAE and Israel will rise once a formal visa regime comes into effect and the pandemic is brought under control, executives from flydubai and Israel’s Israir said during the UAE-Israel Business Leaders Summit.

“We still have not experienced the demand from here (UAE) to Israel - I believe that there is again a pent up demand,” said Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai. People will start travelling from the Gulf country once the visa situation is “clarified” and an ongoing lockdown in Israel is eased, he added.

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“Dubai would be a very big competition to other favorite destinations for Israelis such as Cyprus, Greece and Turkey,” said Uri Sirkis, CEO of Israir. “We need to understand that right now it's the peak season in Dubai and during summer - when the temperature goes up the prices go down - it will be still attractive for Israelis.”

The Israir head said he expects the airline to continue to operate at least three daily flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai. However, during the weekend, that number “can go up to four and even more.”

“I think Dubai is a gamechanger and in our estimation, 2 million Israelis will visit (the emirate) in 2021.”

Business travel boost

flydubai’s Al Ghaith noted that businessmen have been travelling between UAE and Israel to explore opportunities. “One day there will be business traffic between the two, because Dubai and UAE is the biggest business hub in the region.

“To connect that hub with Tel Aviv will create the biggest corridor for business opportunities. There will be a lot of people flying on business matters.”

Be back in contention

By the end of 2022, traffic at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport will be “beyond” levels seen in 2019, said Sirkis. With the current COVID-19 protocol in place, it will take the aviation industry at least three years to fully recover. This was seen during major industrial shocks in the past - such as the 2008 financial crisis and the World Trade Center disaster in 2001, said Sirkis.

However, the flydubai chief is a little more optimistic on the return of travel. “Nobody wants to repeat what happened in 2020 - the moment things are open and clear, people will travel,” said Al Ghaith.