United Arab Emirates carrier Etihad Airways has conducted a commercial service through Israeli airspace, with its Milan Malpensa-Abu Dhabi flight.

Flight EY88 has a scheduled block time of 6h 5min and typically spends about 5h 25min airborne.

The service is normally routed through Turkey and then uses the busy north-south corridor over eastern Iraq, populated by flights operating between the Gulf and Europe.

But ADS-B surveillance data shows the Boeing 787-10 operating this flight on 14 October was instead routed via Tel Aviv, taking advantage of the improved diplomatic relationship between Israel and the UAE and associated recent airspace agreements.

Analysis of the routes indicates that the great circle flightpath between Milan and Abu Dhabi is around 2,550nm and lies roughly midway between the route through Turkey-Iraq – which is some 80nm longer – and Israel-Jordan, about 40nm longer.

This indicates that the distance flown by the Etihad flight, operating via Israel, perhaps shaved the overall distance by around 40nm, the equivalent of about 5min flying time, compared with the normal route.

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-10 landing 1

Source: Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

Etihad Airways conducted the Israeli airspace transit during a Milan-Abu Dhabi flight

But this nevertheless amounts to a fuel saving over the course of hundreds of flights, with the prospect of greater efficiency gains for other services operating through Israeli airspace.

Etihad Airways operated humanitarian cargo flights to Tel Aviv earlier this year, prior to the Israeli-UAE diplomatic pact, in order to provide medical supplies to Palestinians.