El Al Israel Airlines, the national airline of Israel, and Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, are set to explore deeper cooperation following the signing of a virtual Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The wide-ranging MOU covers scope to introduce joint codeshare services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, as well as on the global flight networks beyond the two carriers’ hubs. The MoU signing comes in the wake of Etihad Airways announcing plans earlier this week to commence daily services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv from March 28, 2021.
The MOU also contains plans for greater commercial cooperation in the fields of cargo, engineering, loyalty, destination management and the optimal use of pilot and cabin crew training facilities.
MOU scope includes provision for:
- Joint codeshare services
- Plans to offer reciprocal ‘earn and burn’ on frequent flyer programmes
- Cooperation in the fields of Engineering and Cargo services in Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv
The MOU was signed ‘virtually’ by Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Aviation Group, and Gonen Usishkin, Chief Executive Officer of El Al Israel Airlines.
Speaking on the occasion Mr. Douglas said: “Following El Al’s historic flight to Abu Dhabi, the first ever flight between Israel and the UAE, this MoU is the foundation of what we envision will be a strong ongoing relationship between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. We look forward to examining ways in which the two flag carriers – Etihad and El Al – can work more closely together to improve business operations and enhance the experience for our guests.”
Etihad Airways said that MoU is only the start and we believe that together, the two flag carriers will be able to provide our mutual customers with the best possible product and service.
Mr. Usishkin said: “Following the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, we have been provided a great opportunity to examine the possibility of cooperation with Etihad Airways. Already, the common goals we have outlined speak for the success of our future cooperation.”
Moving Beyond Codeshare
In addition to codeshare operations, the teams at Etihad Guest and El Al Matmid loyalty programmes will explore reciprocal earn and burn opportunities for its members, as well as other benefits. The airlines’ destination management teams will also collaborate to encourage recipricoal inbound tourism to Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.
Both carriers’ engineering and cargo divisions are also set to begin talks about greater cooperation. These discussions would look at optimising Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) opportunities, as well as ways to increase volumes of freighter traffic flowing into and out of Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, and across the carriers’ combined networks.
Change of Guard at El Al
Israel’s privatisation body granted control of El Al to religious student Eli Rozenberg, putting faith in the 27-year-old’s plan to turn around the cash-strapped carrier. According to a report in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, Rozenberg, paid 359 million shekels ($105 million) for a controlling 42.9% of the airline.
The newspaper said that the state bought 13.7%, as it committed to in advance – accounting for 94% of all the shares bought. Tami Mozes Borovitz, El Al’s controlling shareholder until last week, opted out of the offering and saw her stake (held through publicly traded Knafayim) diluted to just over 15%.
Flights Resumed By El Al
El Al has resumed flights to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Miami, Kiev besides New York, London, Paris and Athens in October. From March 2020, El Al had suspended scheduled passenger flights at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak when Israel closed its borders to foreigners. It however operated occasional passenger flights from the United States, Europe and Latin America for Israelis. Despite resumption of flights, El AL’s approximately 6,000 employees have been on unpaid leave.