UAE-Israel flights pushed back to January 2021

Published: 15 October 2020 - 5:30 a.m.
By: Josh Corder
Direct flights between Israel and the UAE, originally planned to take off this month (October), have been pushed back to January next year due to the pandemic.

Israeli officials announced the news earlier this week, with the air link between the two nations planned to introduce a new wave of tourists to both countries and generate new business opportunities for both.

Things were going ahead as planned, with a deal signed at the White House last month, though as Israel is now staring down at a second lockdown, the flight path has been put on hold.

"I feel with the COVID that we're kind of running with our hands behind our backs," Jerusalem's deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum told AFP during a visit to Dubai.

"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.

The delay gives hospitality businesses in the UAE more time to prepare kosher food options for new Jewish guests, who follow a strict diet. Abu Dhabi hotels last month were told by the Department of Culture and Tourism that they must seek certification for handling kosher meals.

In neighbouring emirate Dubai, the Armani Hotel Dubai’s Armani/Kaf quickly became the first kosher-certified restaurant in the UAE just last month.

Despite the delay, Hassan-Nahoum said the tourism sector will be among the first to benefit from the normalisation agreement. It’s expected the deal will bring in 100,000-250,000 visitors a year from each side.

"I can tell you in Israel there's such a thirst for peace and normalisation within our country, especially the UAE which is the most modern economy of the Middle East. People are really excited," she said.

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