Inaugural Flight between Tel Aviv and Sharm el-Sheikh Takes off

On Sunday, the first flight departed from the Ben Gurion Airport on a new direct route from Israel to Sharm el-Sheikh, the coastal resort in Egypt. It took 50 minutes for the plane to touch down in Sharm el-Sheikh, which is at the Sinai Pensinula’s southern tip. The office of the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had made the agreement for launching this route in the previous month. This had occurred days before he had flown for a trilateral summit to Sharm el-Sheikh with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. El Al is the Israeli national carrier and its subsidiary named Sundor is operating the new route.

Gal Gershon from El Al stated that they had started selling tickets for the new route last week from Wednesday and they were all sold within an hour. He also disclosed that the airline had plans of adding more flights for the route. Initially, they are only offering three flights in a week. The Prime Minister’s Office also revealed that the route had been discussed between the premier of Israel and Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian President in their last meeting as well. This had taken place in Sharm el-Sheikh back in September. 

Only a couple of weeks after the meeting, a flight route had been launched by the national airline in Egypt from Cairo to Tel Aviv. Egypt and Israel had spent decades after the Camp David Accords in 1979 in ‘cold peace’ and this meeting between Sissi and Bennett had come recently as the two countries were trying to bolster their ties. These meetings were the first such discussions to have taken place between Egyptian and Israeli leaders in more than a decade. The new flight route was launched only a few days after the Passover holiday had begun in Israel, which usually lasts a week. 

During the holiday, Israelis usually visit the popular tourist destination of Sinai. On Sunday morning, reports indicated that there were long lines at the Taba border crossing. This was because the travel warning from the National Security Council in Israel had been scaled back recently for the first time in more than a decade for some areas of Sinai. For two years, there have been cancellations and isolations because of the pandemic, due to which a number of Israelis are eager to get out of the country. Therefore, a large number of people are planning on traveling to other destinations during the Passover holiday.

Media reports indicate that it is expected that about half a million people will be traveling somewhere via the Ben Gurion Airport in the week. Last week, a warning was issued by an official from the Israel Airports Authority who said that there will be delays and long lines. He had said that this problem was exacerbated because there was not enough staff present, a problem that has happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, there has been an increase in traveling, as restrictions have been lifted after more than two years. 

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