UAE-Israel flight plans postponed to next year
Direct flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, slated to begin this month after a landmark normalization deal, are to be postponed until January because of the coronavirus, an Israeli official said on Tuesday.
The air link announced after the two states signed the deal at the White House last month aims to open up tourism and new business ventures despite the COVID-19 slowdown.
But a second lockdown in Israel, which now has one of the world’s highest infection rates per capita, has put plans on hold, denting hopes for quick gains.
“I feel with the COVID that we’re kind of running with our hands behind our backs,” Jerusalem’s deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said.
“There were supposed to be direct flights in October, then Israel went into shutdown. Now, when I speak to officials here and there, we’re looking at the first of January,” said Hassan-Nahoum, who is also co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council.
Dubai-based carrier Emirates plans to produce kosher meals, with a dedicated production facility expected to be operating from its UAE premises by January.
Despite the flight delay, Hassan-Nahoum said the tourism sector will be among the first to benefit from the normalization.
With the accord having taken everyone by surprise, there are few firm projections but she said experts estimated 100-250,000 visitors a year from each side.