Flag carriers EL AL Israel Airlines and Etihad Airways have signed a virtual memorandum of understanding (MoU) to expand their cooperation.

The virtual agreement was signed by Etihad Aviation Group chief executive officer (CEO) Tony Douglas and EL AL Israel Airlines CEO Gonen Usishkin.

The MoU signing follows the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE.

Under the MOU, the companies plan to launch joint codeshare services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. They expect to expand the service beyond their hubs.

The partnership also aims for deeper commercial cooperation in various fields, including cargo, engineering, loyalty, destination management and optimised usage of pilot and cabin crew training facilities.

Tony Douglas said: “Following EL AL’s historic flight to Abu Dhabi, the first-ever flight between Israel and the UAE, this MOU is the foundation of what we envision will be a strong ongoing relationship between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.

“We look forward to examining ways in which the two flag carriers – Etihad and EL AL – can work more closely together to improve business operations and enhance the experience for our guests.”

Reciprocal earn and burn opportunities, along with inbound tourism to Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, will also be explored by the airlines.

As part of this collaboration, Etihad Airways is planning to announce daily services between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, which will start from 28 March 2021.

Gonen Usishkin said: “This MoU is only the start and we believe that together, the two flag carriers will be able to provide our mutual customers with the best possible product and service. Already, the common goals we have outlined speak for the success of our future cooperation.”