What a difference a few months make!
In August, passengers using an Israeli passport were not able to enter the UAE. Now they can enter without a visa and Etihad and El Al have signed a memorandum of understand to cooperate with each other!
The airlines not only plan to codeshare and sell each other’s flights, but also plan on mileage program reciprocity.
El Al has long talked about and even advertised being able to use Matmid points on partner airlines, but I’m not aware of anyone who has successfully redeemed points for partner airline travel. I certainly won’t hold my breath on this happening, but it would be quite an improvement if suddenly Matmid points could be used to fly in Etihad Shower Class!
While Qantas used to be able to book all El Al saver award flights, El Al added award blocking to most of their flights which hindered the ability to redeem Qantas points on El Al. It remains to be seen if El Al will add the same blocking to new mileage reciprocity agreements, but doing so would remove much of the value in such an agreement and could trigger a reciprocal response.
Codesharing will allow El Al to sell tickets under its flight numbers on Etihad planes across the globe, which will open lots of new routes for El Al to sell. Etihad flights to Tel Aviv will be on March 28th.
The memo was signed by outgoing El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin who is expected to step down by the end of the year. We’ll have to wait and see if the incoming regime will take the steps to enact the agreement and implement the promised mileage reciprocity.
One has to wonder if the thawing of relations between Israel and the Arab world could also mean that El Al will finally try to join an airline alliance? In the past El Al has blamed airlines for blocking their entry into an alliance due to geopolitical reasons. Either way, these sure are interesting times!