Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has flown His Holiness Pope Francis home after a historic three-day visit to the capital Abu Dhabi. The trip, heralded as a triumph in inter-faith dialogue and a celebration of peace, made world history as the first ever visit of a pontiff to the Gulf region.
Leaving on an Etihad Airways Boeing 787
Dreamliner, the Pope leaves behind a legacy of tolerance and peace. During his
visit, the pontiff joined Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and
Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders for the Human Fraternity conference, a
meeting of some of the world’s most prominent religious leaders with the aim of
charting a path for global peace.
In recognition of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, the visit reaffirms
Abu Dhabi’s position as a multi-cultural, multi-faith global capital. Etihad
Aviation Group, one of the city’s leading employers, echoes this diversity with
more than 150 nationalities represented across its 23,000-strong workforce. The
Pope’s visit is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the diversity and spirit
of co-operation witnessed throughout the company.
The crew who flew the Pope home were comprised
of 15 different nationalities, representing the cultural diversity at the heart
of the Etihad Aviation Group.
Captain Abdulla Obaid, an Emirati pilot with
more than 20 years of flying experience led the flight crew. He said: “I am
very proud and thankful to have flown His Holiness Pope Francis to Rome and to
be the first Emirati pilot ever to fly the Pope. Our country’s leadership are directing
us in the way of tolerance and making this country a peaceful country where
people of all cultures can come together.”
Captain Christoph Schippel from Germany joined
Captain Abdulla on the flight deck, bringing more than 30 years of flying
experience to the operation.
In addition, Captain Paolo La Cava, Director
of Etihad Aviation Training, the group’s acclaimed training division has been
instrumental in the operation and planning of this important flight. Captain
Paolo said: “I am very privileged to have been part of the crew flying His
Holiness Pope Francis back home to Italy. I am lucky enough to have flown Pope
Francis a number of times in my aviation career and it is a great honour to have
done this again for Etihad. It was amazing to have Pope Francis here in the UAE
and Etihad Airways is a good representation of this country’s tolerance and
The flight crew completed an extensive
preparation process for the special flight, including several operational
planning meetings and team briefing sessions as well as bespoke simulator
The aircraft door was specially adorned with
the Vatican’s emblem and special headrests, emblazoned with the Vatican
insignia were installed on the aircraft in preparation for the flight.
During his visit, the pontiff performed mass
for a congregation of approximately 130,000 people at Zayed Sports City
stadium. The service was broadcast live across the inflight entertainment
systems of Etihad’s fleet as the aircraft transported guests across the globe
on Tuesday. The airline’s lounges also broadcast the Pope’s historical ceremony.