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Gulf Air launches direct flights to Tel Aviv

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Gulf Air commenced a twice weekly commercial air service between Bahrain and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday, a further step in the normalisation of diplomatic and economic ties with the Gulf state.

“We are making history by connecting the Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel with scheduled commercial flights. We welcome our friends in Israel to fly on Gulf Air and visit Bahrain and fly beyond to our extended network,” said Gulf Air’s Acting CEO Captain Waleed AlAlawi.

This follows the commercial agreements signed with five different Israeli aviation-related companies in December 2020.

The deals included an MOU for a potential joint codeshare and commercial cooperation with El Al, a general sales agent agreement with TAL Aviation, a line maintenance agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Aviation Group, a ground handling agreement with Q.A.S. Israel Ltd and an agreement with Newrest Israel for on-board catering.

Flowing from the Abraham Accords diplomatic initiative a year ago, an agreement was signed at the White House in September 2020, with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates establishing diplomatic, air transport and trade relations with Israel.

Israel named its first ambassador to Bahrain in September, while Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel arrived on August 31.

Israel’s El Al is yet to announce flights of its own to Bahrain, while flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai have already been taken up by El Al, Israir, Arkia and Fly Dubai, with competition and new flights expected from Emirates and Etihad.

The Abraham Accords have seen trade in goods between Israel and the UAE rise from $50.8 mln in the in the first seven months of 2020 to $614 mln in the same period this year. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics said trade between Israel and Bahrain over the same period increased from zero to $300,000, with a healthy growth in trade with Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.