A delegation of Israeli and U.S. officials took off from Tel Aviv for the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi on Monday on the first-ever direct commercial flight conducted by Israel’s flag carrier to the Gulf state.
The delegation was set to meet with UAE officials to discuss the details of the historic peace deal between the two countries announced earlier this month. Security officials have not joined the delegation, with matters concerning defense set to be discussed at a later date.
El Al flight LY971 took off at 11:15 am, following a 45 minute delay, and soon after entered Saudi Arabian airspace after the kingdom agreed Sunday to the request made by Israeli officials.
Flight LY972 will return to Israel on Tuesday. The numbers for two flights include the UAE and Israeli international dialling codes, respectively.
The plane’s captain, Tal Becker, said he has not worked for several months and received a call out of the blue asking him to prepare for the flight. He said it took about a week to get up to speed.
The 45-year veteran, who is the senior captain in El Al’s 737 fleet, said he never dreamed of flying to Abu Dhabi, calling it a “very special feeling.”