A flydubai aircraft landed in Dubai from Tel Aviv on Thursday, with some 200 Israelis on board, for the return leg of the first commercial flight to Israel by the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned airline.
“Welcome to Dubai,” an immigration officer said as the passengers from Israel filed off the plane and into the glitzy Gulf city, some of them waving and giving the peace sign.
An Israeli passenger on the flight said it was a dream come true to enter the United Arab Emirates on an Israeli passport.
“We did it — good evening Dubai! We hope we enjoy it here, visiting for the first time with an Israeli passport,” Liran Shamir and Ren Nagar told Channel 12 news, with one of them — the network didn’t say who — saying they had brought a second foreign passport because they did not believe they would be allowed to enter on their Israeli papers. “There is an excellent attitude here, it’s fun to come. A dream come true.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday welcomed the first commercial Flydubai flight to Israel at Ben Gurion Airport.
“This is a moment of history because it is the first commercial flight between Dubai and Israel,” he said shortly after flight number FZ1163 had landed in Tel Aviv.
“There will be many more, going both directions. But you can only be first once,” he said at a welcoming ceremony in the arrival hall. “And this is a pivotal moment, because we’re changing history. It’s not that we’re marching forward, we’re flying, with breakneck speed, into a new era that is now clearly changing the Middle East.”
He added: “For me, it’s the realization of a dream.”
The first flydubai plane to touch down in Israel actually landed earlier this month without great fanfare, but Thursday’s flight marked the official launch of the airline’s Tel Aviv-Dubai route.
The Emirati budget airliner is offering twice-daily flights between the two cities.
“The start of scheduled flights will contribute to economic development and create further opportunities for investment,” flydubai CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith said when the service was announced earlier this month.
On Sunday, Israel’s cabinet ratified a mutual visa exemption agreement with the UAE — the Jewish state’s first-ever such agreement with an Arab country. The agreement will enter into force next month.
Agencies and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.