The aviation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be officially signed only tomorrow (Tuesday), but history has already been made at Ben Gurion Airport this morning with the landing of a first commercial flight by Etihad Airways, which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. The plane used in this first commercial flight between the two countries was Etihad's Boeing 787 Greenliner, a Dreamliner model that is being used by Etihad and Boeing to test environmentally friendly innovations in aviation.
The Etihad plane landed at 7:00 this morning at a Ben Gurion Airport almost empty of passengers. The flight crew disembarked carrying the flags of the UAE and Israel, and were greeted by a formal reception.
In traditional style for a premiere flight, the plane was doused by jets of water from fire engines. A short ceremony was held beside the plane with the participation of Shmuel Amsalem, deputy director general of Ben Gurion Airport, and Nehama Ronen, chairperson of aviation logistics company Maman Group, which was partly responsible for the organization of the flight. "This is a special and exciting moment, which has been arranged creatively within the coronavirus restrictions. But who would have believed that we would have to transmit the footage on YouTube to convey our excitement from Tel Aviv?" Ronen said.
Amsalem greeted the flight crew in Arabic. "It is an honor for us to host you at Ben Gurion Airport, the gateway to Israel. We hope to see you operating at least one flight daily as soon as possible. We will ensure that you experience security and service of the highest standard at our airport," he said.
The plane's captain, Abdallah Salah, apologized that he had caused the invitees to have to wake up early today "But it was worth it, right?" he said. "I feel moved, and I believe that this is the start of a wonderful friendship between the two countries. If someone had told me a few months ago that I would stand and make a speech here in Tel Aviv, I wouldn't have believed it. But our heroic leaders have made it possible. I hope the day will come when all people live in peace and harmony."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 19, 2020
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