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Airline Odd Couple, El Al Of Israel And Etihad Of Abu Dhabi, Deepen Partnership

February 16, 2023

By Michael Goldstein

“Today, Etihad Airways and EL AL Israel Airlines announced a new reciprocal loyalty agreement.”

El Al started life in 1948 as the national airline of Israel, although it has since been privatized. Etihad is the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

But now, the two airlines representing their countries are “loyal” to one another, at least in the narrow frequent flyer sense of the word. And their commercial relationship reflects a growing normalization of the relationship between the two former adversaries.

Their new agreement expands on the existing codeshare relationship between Etihad and El Al. Members of the loyalty programs at these airlines can now earn and redeem miles on flights across both carrier’s networks. There are about eight million members of the Etihad Guest loyalty program, while EL AL's Matmid is the largest loyalty program in Israel with over 2.6 million members.

Etihad Guest members can redeem their miles for travel with EL AL starting from 6,000 miles for Economy Class and 10,000 miles for Business Class. EL AL Matmid members can redeem their points on the Etihad network including Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi for 800 points in Economy and 1500 points in Business.

Still, who could have dreamed that Israelis might luxuriate in the $20,000 a ticket Residence on an Etihad A380s, or that Arabs from the Gulf might travel on board security obsessed El Al? The pursuit of points and miles apparently has former enemies flying side by side.

Shared interests in commerce and concern about Iranian expansionism have driven this odd couple of countries together. Meanwhile, the expansion of the 2020 Abraham Accords launched by President Trump have broadened the agreement to additional countries.

The partnership opens up much of the world to travelers from the two countries, which are strikingly similar according to the statistics. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are similar in population with each having 9 to 10 million people. "They both have a gross domestic product (GDP) of around $400 billion and their relatively small populations enjoy a high living standard measured in per capita income,” according to economic development credit insurance company Atradius.

The agreement has already resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in trade. So far, more than 250,000 Israelis have visited the Emirates. Although the pandemic and its quarantines cut the flow of travelers to a trickle Israeli President Herzog has said “We await many Emiratis traveling to Israel following COVID," Herzog said.

“Etihad is proud to further deepen the partnership with EL AL,” said Arik De, Chief Revenue Officer of Etihad Airways. “After the signing of the historic Abraham Accords, Etihad Airways became the first Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) airline to fly to Israel, and this partnership further cements Etihad’s pioneering spirit.”

Under the code share piece of the puzzle, EL AL places its ‘LY’ code on seven destinations on the Etihad network including Tel Aviv, Bahrain, Seoul, Melbourne, Manila, Seychelles and Sydney.

Going the other way, Etihad Guest members can now fly with EL Al. The network offered from Tel Aviv includes more than 45 destinations in the US, Europe, Africa, and the Far East.

Etihad currently operates daily scheduled year-round flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. Travelers from Tel Aviv can connect to various destinations in Asia, Australia, and the Indian subcontinent on Etihad Airways.

"This is the next phase following the codeshare agreement between EL AL and Etihad allowing EL AL passengers to fly with Etihad to Abu Dhabi and to various destinations on their network,” says Shlomi Zafrany, Vice President Commercial and Industry Affairs, EL AL Israel Airlines. “This cooperation is a result of the positive outcome of the Abraham Accords signed in September 2020, and we look forward to further strengthening it."

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