Etihad Airways, the national carrier of Abu Dhabi, will offer flights to Israelis, to destinations in the Middle East, Asia, Australia and elsewhere, from its home airport of Abu Dhabi. These are not direct flights from Tel Aviv, which are still a dream for the future, but Israelis can now officially buy Etihad Airways tickets.
Etihad Airways is represented in Israel by TAL Aviation. "In recent weeks we have seen a rise in demand in Israel and a return of the desire to travel. We are excited about cooperating with our new partners, Etihad, and to offer Israeli travelers Etihad's renowned service experience to Abu Dhabi and other destinations on its international flight network," said TAL Aviation VP Commercial, Nissim Sagis.
The new aviation offering to Israeli travelers comes in the wake of the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Etihad Airways is one of the world's most acclaimed airlines, particularly for its first and business class services. The airline has a fleet of about 100 aircraft with an average age of under six years, which earns it prizes and high passenger ratings. In 2019, it carried 17.5 million passengers, and average seat occupancy was 79%. It flies to 84 destinations in 55 countries, and we can now hope that an additional Middle Eastern country will join the list.
The largest airline in the UAE is Emirates, based in Dubai. Emirates consistently wins "best airline in the world" titles, and is considered the airline offering the best service. In 2019, its fleet of 270 aircraft carried 56 million passengers. Emirates flies to 157 destinations, and employs nearly 60,000 people.
TAL Aviation represents airlines and tourism companies through 35 branches in Europe, Asia, North America, and Israel. It represents 30 airlines in both passenger and cargo business.
Danger to El Al
"The entry of airlines from the UAE into Israel represents a great danger to Israeli aviation, and particularly to El Al," says a senior industry source. "Even before the crisis and before the change that will arise from the signing of the agreement with the UAE, the Israeli airlines lost money when the Open Skies policy came into full effect.
"Unlike the case of the Israeli airlines, the governments of the Gulf states and the Emirates pour money into various industries, aviation among them. They set up amazing companies and built new airports, with the low price of fuel available to them serving them well. The aim they set for themselves was to conquer the world and grow their market share in aviation in other countries as well. The hubs they have at their airports link every continent. It's an excellent location for flights to Australia, to the Far East, and to Africa, which means that El Al, and airlines like Turkish Airlines which fly to these destinations, should be worried, not just about the excellent product of the airlines from the UAE, but also about the fares they offer.
"El Al still doesn't know whether it will obtain a permanent permit to fly over Saudi Arabia, as opposed to the one-time permit for the flight to Abu Dhabi, but even if it does, I have no doubt that Etihad and Emirates are capable of taking over the Israeli market for flights to the Far East."
The same source says that there could be substantial change in the cargo segment as well. "In cargo, up to now, no Israeli airline flies to the Far East, and cargo is mainly carried on passenger planes. The entry of these two companies could generate competition here too, and also open up a good opportunity for cooperation."
In normal times, 70% of air cargo is carried on passenger planes, and the more that passenger traffic grows, including Etihad Airways and Emirates, the more they will be able to take market share in the cargo segment.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 1, 2020
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