Category Archives: Middle East

Etihad Makes History With First Commercial Passenger Flight from GCC Nation to Israel

Etihad also launches dedicated Hebrew website – a first for an Arab airline

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, will become the first GCC carrier to operate a commercial passenger flight to and from Israel, to bring Israel’s top travel and tourism leaders to the UAE.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, will become the first GCC carrier to operate a commercial passenger flight to and from Israel, to bring Israel’s top travel and tourism leaders to the UAE.

The historic flight, flown in partnership with the Maman Group, will depart Tel Aviv on 19 October, operated by an Etihad Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft for the three-and-a-half-hour journey from Israel to the UAE. The return journey will depart Abu Dhabi on 21 October.

As a travel trade mission, the flight will bring a group of tourism industry leaders, key corporate decision makers, travel agents, and cargo agents, along with media to experience Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE, at the invitation of Etihad Airways and representatives of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry.

This is the latest development in a growing cooperation between the two nations following the establishment of diplomatic ties, and the signing of the Abraham Accords between the UAE and Israel in Washington D.C. on 15 September. It also follows Israeli national airline El Al’s first symbolic commercial flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi on 31 August.

“Today’s flight is a historic opportunity for the development of strong partnerships here in the UAE, and in Israel, and Etihad as the national airline, is delighted to be leading the way,” His Excellency Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, Chairman, Etihad Aviation Group, said. “We are just starting to explore the long-term potential of these newly forged relationships, which will be sure to greatly benefit the economies of both nations, particularly in the areas of trade and tourism, and ultimately the people who call this diverse and wonderful region home.”

As an important facilitator of trade, the flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi will also carry commercial cargo sourced from, and destined for, points across Etihad’s global network, in addition to commercial guests.

Coinciding with the first commercial flight and in celebration of the recent peace accords between the UAE and Israel, Etihad has become the first non-Israeli airline in the Middle East to launch a dedicated website for the Israeli market in Hebrew. Also available in English, the Israeli version of the airline’s official website contains digital content including extensive information on Etihad’s operations, product, services, and network. The site also includes an Abu Dhabi destination guide. The site can be viewed in Hebrew at and in English at

As the UAE’s national carrier, Etihad Airways is one of the world’s leading airlines, acclaimed for its unparalleled service, industry leading cabins, and genuine Arabian hospitality.

See also: Global Scavenger Hunt, Leg 5: Discovering Abu Dhabi

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Meaningful Trip, US Travel Company, Offers Special ‘Founders Tour’ to Iran

Jame Mosque in Yazd is a 12th c mosque still in use today (c) Joe Staiano, Meaningful Trip
Jame Mosque in Yazd is a 12th c mosque still in use today (c) Joe Staiano, Meaningful Trip

“My god, Iran is one of the most magical places I’ve ever traveled to, with some of the friendliest people on the planet,” says Joe Staiano, founder of Meaningful Trip, a Seattle-based tour company, after visiting Iran last May.

His experience motivated him to organize this year’s “Founder’s Trip” around a single departure of a 13-day tour through Iran, May 3-15, 2015.

“Iran offers 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the history of Persepolis, amazing museums, world-famous gardens such as Eram Gardens, tantalizing Persian cuisine, and some of the warmest and most hospitable people on the planet,” he says.

The tour visits Shiraz, Presepolis, Esfahan, Yazd, Kerman and Tehran, and features a village homestay, cooking class and a unique overnight in a desert caravanserai.

“As founder, I personally vet all local tour operator partners. I check for safety, safety of routes and locations along the itinerary, quality of transport, cleanliness of hotels, I was in Iran in May of 2014. I found it to be one of the safest countries I have ever visited. (and I have been to 80 countries).”

About 2,500 Americans visit Iran in a year, but all have to be part of an authorized tour. Two other US tour companies include MIR Corp and Caravan Serai, which offer two-week tours for around $4,500 – 6,000.

“Americans must first get an ‘Authorization Number’ issues from the tour agency. Then, they can apply for visitor Visa. Meaningful Trip will help facilitate this ‘Authorization Number’,” Staiano says.

This is Meaningful Trip’s first organized program into Iran, and is limited to 14 participants.

The tour price of $2,595 includes accommodations in four-star lodging, most meals, English-speaking female guide, entry fees.

Complete trip itinerary and details can be found at:

Meaningful Trip is a pioneer in responsible travel with 20 years experience – operating trips to India, Nepal, Colombia, Baja Mexico, Vietnam, Turkey. A portion of each trip goes to support women’s empowerment, poverty, health, education and hunger programs. Meaningful Trip is one of only six USA tour operators to sign ECPAT’s Code of Conduct to help fight trafficking and exploitation of children.

Contact Meaningful Trip founder Joe Staiano at, 206-305-2200,


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