The launch of the Emirates airline’s much-vaunted route between Tel Aviv and Dubai will be delayed due to new coronavirus travel restrictions, the airline said in a statement Sunday.
“The postponement comes as a result of recent changes in entry protocols issued by the Israeli government. The airline is committed to launching services to Tel Aviv as soon as the situation allows,” a spokesperson for the airline said.
The UAE’s co-flagship carrier had been slated to inaugurate the route on December 6, joining two other Emirati airlines — fellow flagship Etihad and Flydubai — already making the trip between the countries.
Amid fears of the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Israeli ministers voted Saturday night to ban noncitizens from entering the country for two weeks.
Israel had reopened to foreign tourism in early November, for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Emirates, one of the largest airlines in the world and one of the UAE’s flag-carrying airlines, said last month that the new service would link Israel “seamlessly” with its global route network of over 120 destinations.
Flights tagged as EK931 were set to depart Dubai daily at 14:50 local time and arrive at Ben Gurion Airport at 16:25 local time. Return flights, tagged EK932, would have left Tel Aviv at 18:25 and reached Dubai at 23:35 local time.
Services were set to enable inbound connections to Tel Aviv on Emirates flights from nearly 30 locations across Australia, the US, Brazil, Mexico, India, and South Africa, which, the statement noted, are all home to large Jewish communities.
Low-cost carrier Flydubai launched the first commercial flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai just a few months after last year’s agreement. Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad and Israeli carrier Arkia now also offer regular flights.
The UAE’s normalization of its relations with Israel, in a deal brokered by then-US president Donald Trump’s administration, broke with decades of Arab consensus that ties with Israel depend on resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. The so-called Abraham Accords, which were signed in September 2020 and eventually included Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, infuriated the Palestinians and their supporters.
Israel and the UAE have since opened reciprocal embassies.
Ties between Israel and the UAE are also set to reach higher than the atmosphere after last month the two countries finalized an agreement to collaborate on a number of space projects, including a joint launch of the “Beresheet 2” unmanned space mission to the moon.