Israel Gulf Report
Interview with flydubai as it celebrates new route to Israel
While the Abraham Accords ushered a new openness between Israel the Gulf, this airliner is the conduit allowing for actual people to people interaction between Israel and the UAE
By NOA AMOUYAL
Although Israel’s Ben Gurion airport is temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Israelis are clamoring to get back to Dubai once the skies open up again. After flydubai’s maiden voyage from Dubai to Israel in November, thousands of Israels have hopped on their planes eager to explore everything their Arab neighbor had to offer.
In an email exchange which took place prior to Israel’s decision to shut down its airport, the Israel-Gulf Report spoke with Jeyhun Efendi, Senior Vice President and Commercial Operations and E-commerce at flydubai about the significance of this route and what the future holds for travel between Israel and the Gulf.
How has this Dubai-TLV route helped change the landscape of air travel across the Middle East? Are there any plans to expand the route?
flydubai has always been committed to removing barriers to travel, creating free flows of trade and tourism and enhancing connectivity between different cultures across our network. Following historic bilateral agreements reached between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel, flydubai operated the first commercial flight to Tel Aviv from Dubai. We launched the route with a double daily service. Demand on the route was overwhelming and we quickly grew the schedule to four flights a day. We believe that Dubai will be one of the most important destinations for Israelis in the years to come, both for tourism, business and for connections to the rest of the world through one of its largest hubs, Dubai International. In addition, there are more than 200 nationalities based in the UAE who have many different reasons to travel to Israel. We are also looking forward to meeting this demand for tourism which includes for historical and religious reasons as well as those travelling for business.
In December, your CEO commented that with UAE being a "green" country, the demand for travel between Israel to the UAE was high. Now that Israel has determined that all countries are "red," how do you see Covid impacting travel between the two countries?
Obviously, numbers have decreased for the time being but we are still operating a daily service between Dubai and Tel Aviv and although we are seeing slowing demand towards the end of February, we expect to go back to our four daily flights very soon. flydubai continues to navigate the effects of the pandemic and we have managed these challenges by being flexible, agile and responsive. We remain focused on giving our passengers the confidence and peace of mind that they need when they travel with flydubai, and this has been achieved by redesigning the entire passenger journey and adhering to the highest standards of travel in a safe environment.
With your airline offering affordable packages including flight and hotel accommodations are there any plans for creating packages for the Jewish Passover holiday in March worth mentioning?
We are gearing up for upcoming demand during March and already have planned an increase in capacity. We are working with all major tour operators in the market to support them with their packages. We have also introduced Kosher Meals which are available to pre-order for passengers travelling in Business Class.
Can you share any first impressions of this new relationship? What's it like working with Israelis and having them as customers?
I think Israeli customers loved Dubai from first sight. And it is no wonder since Dubai is a global tourist destination welcoming tens of millions of tourists from around the globe. It has something to offer to all segments of the market from families to couples and corporate incentive travel. I believe Dubai will further grow to become a major destination for Israelis attractive both for business and leisure.
Once Covid subsides, do you see your airline flying into Israel's airport in Eilat as well?
We are always looking for new opportunities to grow our network, and we remain committed to opening up underserved markets in 2021, while continuing to facilitate trade and travel in the region. So we will definitely consider Eilat as a potential destination to join our network.