El Al

This article is about the Israeli airline. For the place in the Golan formerly named El Al, see Eliad, Golan Heights. For the airport in Spain, see El Altet.
El Al Israel Airlines Ltd.
אל על נתיבי אויר לישראל בע"מ
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1948 (1948)
Hubs Ben Gurion Airport
Frequent-flyer program Matmid
Airport lounge King David Lounge
Subsidiaries El Al Cargo
Sun d'Or
Fleet size 43
Destinations 64
Company slogan It's not just an airline. It's Israel.
הכי בבית בעולם
Literally: "The most at home in the world"
Casually: "Your home in the sky"
El Al translation: "Home Away From Home"
Headquarters Ben Gurion Airport, Israel
Key people Amikam Cohen, Chairman
David Maimon, CEO
Website elal.co.il

El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL),[1] trading as El Al (Hebrew: אל על, "To The Skies" or "Skywards", Arabic: إل عال), is the flag carrier of Israel.[2][3] Since its inaugural flight from Geneva to Tel Aviv in September 1948, the airline has grown to serve over more than 50 destinations, operating scheduled domestic and international services and cargo flights within Israel and to Europe, Middle East, Americas, Africa and the Far East from its main base in Ben Gurion Airport.

El Al in principle offers only kosher in-flight meals and does not fly passengers on the Jewish Sabbath or religious holidays.[4][5] El Al is the only commercial airline to equip its planes with missile defense systems, and is considered one of the world's most secure airlines, thanks to its stringent security procedures, both on the ground and on board its aircraft.[6][7] Although it has been the target of many attempted hijackings and terror attacks, only one El Al flight has ever been hijacked.[8][9] As Israel's national airline, El Al has played an important role in humanitarian rescue efforts, airlifting Jews from other countries to Israel, setting the world record for the most passengers on a commercial aircraft (single plane record of 1,122 passengers) by Operation Solomon when 14,500 Jewish refugees were transported from Ethiopia in 1991.[10][11]

In 2012, El Al operated an all-Boeing fleet of 38 aircraft, flying over 4 million passengers, and employed a staff of 6,056 globally. The company's revenues for 2011 grew to $2.4 billion, totalling losses of $49.4 million compared to a profit of $57 million in 2010.[12]


Early years

An El Al Lockheed Constellation (1951)

In September 1948, Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, attended a conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Weizmann was scheduled to fly back to Israel in an Israeli government aircraft, but due to an embargo imposed on Israel at the time, this was not possible. An Israeli C-54 military transport aircraft was instead converted into a civilian plane to transport Weizmann home. The aircraft was painted with the logo of the "El Al/Israel National Aviation Company" and fitted with extra fuel tanks to enable a non-stop flight from Geneva to Israel. It departed from Ekron Air Base on 28 September, and returned to Israel the next day. After the flight, the aircraft was repainted and returned to military use.[13]

The airline was incorporated and became Israel's national flag carrier on 15 November 1948, although it used leased aircraft until February 1949, when two unpressurized DC-4s were purchased from American Airlines. The acquisition was funded by the government of Israel, the Jewish Agency, and other Jewish organizations. The first plane arrived at Lod Airport (later renamed Ben Gurion) on 3 April 1949. Aryeh Pincus, a lawyer from South Africa, was elected head of the company. The first international flight, from Tel Aviv to Paris, with a refueling in Rome, took place on 31 July 1949.[13][14] By the end of 1949, the airline had flown passengers to London and Johannesburg. A regular service to London was inaugurated in the middle of 1950. Later that year, El Al acquired Universal Airways, which was owned by South African Zionists. A state-run domestic airline, Israel Inland Airlines, was founded in which El Al had a 50% stake.[13]

Curtiss Commando freight aircraft of El Al

El Al's cargo service was inaugurated in 1950 and initially relied on military surplus Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft. The same aircraft type was used also for passengers transportation in certain routes. The same year the airline initiated charter services to the United States, followed by scheduled flights soon afterwards.[13]

From its earliest days the operation of the airline in keeping with Jewish tradition has been a source of friction; when the Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion was forming his first coalition, the religious parties would not join unless Ben-Gurion promised that El Al would serve only kosher food on its flights and would not fly on the Jewish Sabbath.[15]

In 1950-1951 El Al expanded it's activities in Europe and added new destinations such as Vienna and Istanbul, Athens and Nicosia. On July 31 of 1950 the company celebrated first anniversary of its regular flights program.

Kurdish Jewish Immigrants from Iraq leaving Lod Airport (1951)
Bristol Britannia of El Al at Farnborough Airport in 1957 just before delivery to the airline

The airline was involved in several covert operations: In the early 1950s, El Al airlifted over 160,000 immigrants to Israel from India, Iran, Iraq and Yemen as part of Operation Magic Carpet and Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.[16] In 1960, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was captured and flown from Argentina to Israel on an El Al aircraft.[17]

In 1955, after using Lockheed Constellations for several years, the airline purchased two Bristol Britannia aircraft. El Al was the second airline in the world to fly this plane, after the British Overseas Airways Corporation. In 1958, El Al ran a newspaper advertisement in the United States featuring a picture of a "shrunken" Atlantic Ocean ("Starting Dec. 23, the Atlantic Ocean will be 20% smaller") to promote its non-stop transatlantic flights.[18] This was a bold step: the airline industry had never used images of the ocean in its advertising because of the widespread public fear of airline crashes. The advertisement, which ran only once, proved effective. Within a year, El Al's sales tripled.[19]

Expansion in the 1960s

An El Al Boeing 720 being serviced at London Heathrow Airport in 1964.

Despite the purchase of its Britannias and inauguration of non-stop transatlantic flights the airline remained unprofitable.[13] When Efraim Ben-Arzi took over the company in the late 1950s, the Britannias were replaced in the next decade by the Boeing 707 and Boeing 720 jet airliners.

An El Al Boeing 707 at Orly Airport, Paris (1965)

The first year that El Al turned a profit was 1960. That year, more than 50 percent of the passengers flying into Israel arrived on El Al flights.[13] On 15 June 1961, the airline set a world record for the longest non-stop commercial flight: an El Al Boeing 707 flew from New York to Tel Aviv, covering 5,760 miles (9,270 km) in 9 hours and 33 minutes.[16] By this time, El Al was carrying 56,000 passengers a year—on a par with Qantas and ahead of established airlines like Loftleiðir. In 1961, El Al ranked 35th in the world in accumulated passenger distance.[20] El Al's success continued into the late 1960s. In 1968, regular flights to Bucharest were inaugurated, and cargo flights began to Europe and the United States. The airline also established a catering subsidiary, Teshet Tourism and Aviation Services Ltd. All these ventures brought in a profit of $2 million that year.[13]

Late 1960s hijacking attempts

In 1968, El Al experienced the first of many acts of terrorism that have been perpetrated against the airline. On 23 July, the only successful hijacking of an El Al aircraft took place, when a Boeing 707 carrying 10 crew and 38 passengers was taken over by three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The aircraft, El Al Flight 426, which was en route from Rome to Tel Aviv, was diverted to Algiers by the hijackers. Negotiations with the hijackers lasted for 40 days. Both the hijackers and the passengers, including 21 Israeli hostages, were eventually freed.[21] The hijackers were said to have believed Israeli General Ariel Sharon was on the flight.[22] According to Sarah Levy, it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who saved Sharon's life, by advising him the night before to take a different flight.[23] On 26 December of the same year, two PFLP members attacked an El Al aircraft at Athens International Airport, killing an Israeli mechanic.[24] The Israeli Defense Forces responded to the incident on 29 December, with a night-time raid on Lebanon's Beirut Airport, destroying 14 planes on the ground belonging to Middle East Airlines, Trans Mediterranean Airways and Lebanese International Airways.[25] The military action was responsible for the demise of the LIA, which had most of its fleet destroyed.

On 18 February 1969, Palestinians attacked an El Al plane at Zurich Airport killing the copilot and injuring the pilot. One Palestinian attacker was killed and others were convicted but later released. Between September and December of that year, bomb and grenade attacks occurred at El Al offices in Athens, West Berlin, and Brussels.[26] This wave of violence culminated in the failed hijacking of an El Al 707 by Patrick Arguello and Leila Khaled on 6 September 1970, as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings.[27]

The 1970s and 1980s

Revenue Passenger-Kilometers, scheduled flights only, in millions
Year Traffic
1950 50
1955 138
1960 413
1965 1331
1969 2070
1971 3027
1980 4590
1985 6507
1995 11287
2000 14125
Source: ICAO Digest of Statistics for 1950-55, IATA World Air Transport Statistics 1960-2000
An El Al Boeing 707-300B landing at Zürich Airport, Switzerland (1982)
An El Al Boeing 767-200 on short final to London Heathrow Airport in 1985

El Al acquired its first Boeing 747 in 1971. Many felt it was a risky purchase given the high cost of the plane and fear of attacks, but El Al operations flourished after the purchase. Another 747 was delivered in 1973 and was used to start non-stop service from Tel Aviv to New York (707s had flown the eastward nonstop since around 1961).

In the mid-1970s El Al began to schedule flights from airports outside of Israel that departed on the Jewish sabbath and landed in Israel after it had finished. The religious parties in the government were in arms over this, being that this was a violation of Jewish law and contrary to the agreement signed in the early days of the state, in which El Al promised to refrain from flying on the sabbath. In 1982 the newly re-elected prime minister Menachem Begin, brought before the Knesset a vote to ban Sabbath flights once again (it passed by a vote of 58 to 54).[28] Outraged, the secular community threatened to boycott the airline. In August 1982 El Al workers blocked Orthodox and Hassidic Jews from entering the airport.[15]

In 1977 El Al established a charter subsidiary, El Al Charter Services Ltd., later renamed Sun D'Or International Airlines Ltd. Two years earlier the airline had suffered its first losses since the late 1950s, largely a product of the global recession. The management changed three times towards the end of the 1970s, until Itzhak Shander was named president. As the political situation in Iran deteriorated, El Al began to airlift Jews to Israel. All the airline's infrastructure in Iran was eventually destroyed.[13] El Al flights to Cairo were inaugurated in April 1980, following the Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty.[16] In late 1982, after a long period of labor disputes and strikes, El Al operations were suspended. The government appointed Amram Blum to run the company, which lost $123.3 million in the fiscal year ending April 1983.[13] The airline also sold its stake in Arkia at this time.[29]

Operations resumed in January 1983 under receivership. The government purchased two new Boeing 737 aircraft and announced plans to acquire four Boeing 767 jets at the cost of $200 million. Within four years, El Al was profitable again.[13] It broke another record, since then surpassed, in May 1988 with a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, a journey of 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km) in 13 hours and 41 minutes.[16] Flights to Poland and Yugoslavia were inaugurated in 1989.[13]


In January 1990, North American Airlines began providing feeder services to El Al's US destinations. El Al held a 24.9 percent stake in the airline until selling it back to Dan McKinnon in July 2003. By this time, El Al was operating a fleet of 20 aircraft, including nine Boeing 747s, and had begun replacing its aging Boeing 707s with the Boeing 757. Early that year, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, El Al inaugurated regular flights to Moscow. No airlifts from the former Soviet Union were possible at the time but permission was granted in 1991. Charter flights commenced in August 1991, with immigrants also occupying all available seats on El Al's scheduled routes. In cooperation with Aeroflot, El Al flew more than 400,000 Jewish immigrants to Israel within a three-year period.

El Al helped with the airlifting of Ethiopian immigrants from Ethiopia during Operation Solomon in 1991.

On 24 May 1991, an El Al Boeing 747 cargo plane airlifted a record-breaking 1,087 Ethiopian Jews from Addis Ababa to Israel in the framework of Operation Solomon. Three babies were born during the flight. The plane carried twice as many passengers as it was designed for.[10] In less than 36 hours, 14,500 Ethiopian Jews were flown to Israel.[11] On 27 April 1994, El Al received its first Boeing 747-400.[13][30]

El Al flights were inaugurated to the Far East and, in 1995, El Al signed its first codesharing agreement with American Airlines.[13] In February 1995, the receivership under which the airline had technically been operating since 1982 came to an end.[31] In June 1996, El Al recorded its first flight from Israel to Amman, Jordan.[16]

In 1996, El Al recorded US$83.1 million in losses, due to the resumption of terrorist activities and the government's open skies policy.[13] To keep its planes flying during this period, El Al introduced flights "to nowhere": passengers were offered various kinds of in-flight entertainment as the plane circled the Mediterranean. One-day shopping trips to London and visits to religious sites in eastern Europe were also promoted.[13] In 1997, El Al opened a separate cargo division.[32]

21st century

El Al's first Boeing 777 embarked on its maiden flight in March 2000. Later that year the controversy over flights on Shabbat erupted again, when the airline announced that it was losing US$55 million a year by grounding its planes on Saturdays. After privatization of the company began in June 2003, the policy regarding sabbath flights was expected to change.[15][16]

The first phase of the long-delayed privatization of the company commenced in June 2003 and by Israel's Government Companies Authority, headed by Eyal Gabbai. 15 percent of El Al's shares were listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. By June 2004, 50% of the company had been sold to the public. By January 2005, a controlling share of the company had been transferred to Knafaim-Arkia Holdings Ltd.[16] As of October 2014, El Al's major shareholders are Knafaim Holdings (36%), Ginspurg Group (10%) and Delek Group (10%).[33]

In August 2010, El Al and American Airlines signed an agreement to provide connecting through tickets between Israel and 61 destinations in the United States from October 2010, via John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.[34]

Company affairs and identity


Small El Al aircraft at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petakh Tikva

El Al's headquarters are located on the grounds of Ben Gurion International Airport in Central District, Israel, near Lod.


During 2005, the airline transported 3.5 million passengers, a rise from 3.2 million in 2004 and 2.8 million in 2003.[35] 60% of the airline's passengers are Israeli.[36] In 2006, El Al posted a $44.6 million loss on revenues of $1.665 billion.[37] The company is facing four lawsuits, two of which have been approved as class actions, which could cost the company $176.2 million.[38] El Al spends $100 million a year to conform with the airline security measures required by Israel's Shin Bet security service.[39] In early 2007, El Al opened a new King David Lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. New lounges at Heathrow airport in London and JFK International airport in New York had also opened in late 2007.[40]

In 2007, El Al invested NIS 1 billion in the purchase of two new Boeing 777-200s that included an updated El Al decal. The aircraft are fitted with upgraded seats with adjustable headrests and legrests. Each seat is equipped with a touch-screen entertainment system. The first aircraft, named "Sderot", completed its maiden flight from New York to Tel Aviv on 26 July 2007. The second, "Kiryat Shmona", was delivered at the end of August 2007.[41]

After the United States Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Israel's aviation safety rating to 2 in February 2009, an IATA member has warned El Al, as well as competing airlines Arkia and Israir, that they may appear on the European blacklist of banned carriers. Giora Romm, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel, responded to the claim, stating: "We are in close contact with the Europeans," He added, "I don't know what the fuss is about. The Europeans' e-mail is strange. We are doing everything we can to improve security." The European Union has yet to make an official statement on the matter.[42] El Al uses the Amadeus CRS system for reservation, inventory, check-in and online bookings.[43] In November 2012, the United States FAA restored Israel's category 1 rating.[44]

El Al has a cargo branch, El Al Cargo, which became independent in 1997. As the national cargo airline of Israel, it operates to destinations in Asia, Europe and North America plus ad hoc worldwide charters with its two Boeing 747-200F aircraft. Before 2001, when the Israeli air cargo market opened up to competition, El Al Cargo enjoyed a monopoly. Now its main competition comes from CAL Cargo Air Lines.[13]

As of 2011, the company employs a staff of 6,056 globally and has a fleet of 37 aircraft. The company's revenues for 2011 grew by 4% from 2010 to $2.4 billion, totalling losses of $49.4 million compared to a profit of $57 million in 2010.[12]

El Al has Hebrew language voiceovers and Arabic language subtitles in its flight safety videos. And after the first video is finished another video comes on in English [45]

The key trends for El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. are shown below (as at year ending 31 December):[46]

Currency in Millions of US Dollars 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Operating revenues 2.096,3 1.655,8 1.971,4 2.042,6 2.015,6 2.103,0 2.081,3 2.054,0 100,0%
Passenger aircraft, operation revenue 1.832,0 1.489,5 1.764,5 1.829,5 1.827,9 1.920,3 1.910,6 1.865,3 90,8%
Cargo aircraft, operation revenue 139,5 58,3 87,5 99,4 80,4 70,4 69,9 71,4 3,5%
Other revenue and Adjustments revenue 124,9 108,0 119,4 113,7 107,3 112,4 100,8 117,4 5,7%
Operating expenses 1.776,3 1.444,3 1.584,6 1.764,9 1.701,9 1.737,1 1.802,7 1.592,8 77,5%
Gross Profit 320,0 211,6 386,9 277,7 313,7 335,9 278,6 461,2 22,5%
Selling, Administrative, General and Others expenses/revenues -325,7 -286,6 -299,6 -321,6 -301,6 -310,6 -291,4 -291,4 -14,2%
Operating profit/loss -5,7 -75,0 87,3 -43,9 12,1 64,3 -12,8 169,8 8,3%
Financing expenses/income, net -44,6 -26,3 -25,1 0,3 -37,0 -25,4 -26,6 -26,0
Share of the profits of subsidiaries, net of tax 0,5 0,4 0,0 1,4 1,4 0,3 1,1 0,8
Profit/loss before tax -49,7 -100,8 62,2 -42,2 -23,4 39,2 -38,3 144,6 7,0%
Profit/loss after tax -41,9 -76,3 56,5 -49,8 -18,2 26,7 -28,1 106,5 5,2%



Main article: Up (airline)

On 26 November 2013, El Al unveiled its new low cost airline Up,[47][48] which commenced operations on 30 March 2014, initially to Berlin, Budapest, Kiev, Larnaca and Prague[48] using five Boeing 737-800s transferred from El Al fleet.[48] Up was founded by its parent El Al to be used on some routes to Europe where it replaced El Al itself. All flights of Up are operated by El Al, using El Al's call sign and codes with a four digit number.[48] For flights over two hours the airline offers a buy on board service.[49]

In August 2014, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary foreshadowed the development of a Ryanair Israel, connecting Israel with cities across Europe. He said an inhibiting factor in the plan was Israeli authorities protectiveness of El Al from competition. The CEO of Up wishes to recreate the airline business world.[50]

Sun d'Or

A former Sun d'Or Boeing 757-200
Main article: Sun d'Or

The charter operations of the Group is carried out through Sun D'Or, a company fully owned by El Al. Sun D'Or operates as a tourist organizer for wholesalers and individuals and markets charter and scheduled flights, both by means of leasing full aircraft capacity to third parties, or aircraft parts' capacity to a number of partners for pre-negotiated prices, or by direct sales. Starting from 2011, Sun D'Or operates as a tourist organizer, while maintaining the "Sun D'Or" brand for scheduled and charter flights marketed by Sun D'Or. In March 2011, The Israel Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced the suspension of Sun d'Or's operating license effective 1 April 2011. The CAA based its decision citing non-compliance with Israeli and international airline management standards, mainly lack of self-owned planes and crew.[51] Since then, Sun d'Or no longer operates own aircraft but utilizes planes from its parent, El Al.


Tamam (a company fully owned by El Al) is mainly engaged in the production and supply of kosher ready meals to airline companies.


Katit (a company fully owned by El Al) is mainly engaged in the production and supply of meals to the Company's employees.

Borenstein Caterers

The main business of Borenstein, a company (fully owned by El Al) registered in the U.S. and operates at the New York JFK airport, is the production and supply of kosher ready meals to airlines and other institutions.

Superstar Holidays

Superstar (a company fully owned by El Al) is a tourist wholesaler that markets tourist package deals to travel agents and passengers, and sells airline tickets at discounted prices for flights on the Company's routes.


As a prime target for terrorism, El Al employs stringent security procedures, both on the ground and on board its aircraft. These effective, though time-consuming and discriminatory, procedures have won El Al's security reputation.[9] In 2008, the airline was named by Global Traveler magazine as the world's most secure airline.[6]

Onboard missile defense systems

El Al planes have been fitted with anti-missile counter-measures since the early 2000s, with the initial system known as Flight Guard.[52][53][54][55]

Since the early 2000s, El Al has been the only commercial airliner to fit its planes with systems to defend against anti-aircraft missiles. In 2014, El Al began to fit some of its planes that fly on more sensitive routes with an updated missile defense system that employs an infrared missile-tracking camera, an “infrared (IR), ultra-violet (UV), or radar missile-approach warning (MAWS) sensor to detect a missile launch in the very early stages of an attack” and a laser system to act as a counter-measure.[56] In November 2014, under the Israeli government's SkyShield programme, Elbit's Commercial Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasures (C-MUSIC) system was adopted by El Al. "C-MUSIC is one of the biggest and most complex projects ever undertaken at Elbit and in Israel".[57]

Airport security measures

At Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, plainclothes agents and fully armed police or military personnel patrol the premises for explosives, suspicious behavior, and other threats. Armed security personnel also patrol El Al terminals overseas. Inside the terminal, passengers and their baggage are checked by a trained team. El Al security procedures require that all passengers be interviewed individually prior to boarding, allowing El Al staff to identify possible security threats. Passengers are asked questions about their place of origin, the reason for their trip, their job or occupation, and whether they have packed their bags themselves. El Al believes interviewers can spot signs of nervousness.[58]

At the check-in counter, passengers' passports and tickets are closely examined. A ticket without a sticker from the security checkers will not be accepted. At passport control passengers' names are checked against information from the FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Scotland Yard, Shin Bet, and Interpol databases. Luggage is screened and sometimes hand searched. In addition, bags are put through a decompression chamber simulating pressures during flight that could trigger explosives.[59] Even at overseas airports, El Al security agents conduct all luggage searches personally, even if they are supervised by government or private security firms.[60]

Flight security measures

Undercover agents (sometimes referred to as sky marshals) carrying concealed firearms sit among the passengers on every international El Al flight.[61] Most El Al pilots are former Israeli Air Force pilots.[62][note 1] The cockpits in all El Al aircraft have double doors to prevent entry by unauthorized persons. A code is required to access the doors, and the second door will only be opened after the first has closed and the person has been identified by the captain or first officer.[62] Furthermore, there are reinforced steel floors separating the passenger cabin from the baggage hold.[63]

In April 2013, the Israeli government increased payments to El Al to secure 97.5% of the airlines' security costs, ahead of the Open Skies agreement to take effect in 2014 with the European Union.[64]


Security controversy and passenger profiling

The airline was criticized by Hungarian courts for refusing to search luggage with the passenger present, acting against Hungarian domestic laws stipulating that only authorized officials are able to undertake such searches.[65] A civil case was brought to the Supreme Court of Israel on 19 March 2008 alleging that El Al's practice of ethnic profiling singles out Arab passengers for tougher treatment.[66]

Excess baggage fee controversy

The Israeli president Shimon Peres, opted at the last minute to change his flight from El Al to Air Canada during a state visit, because El Al tried to charge the president a $5,000 excess baggage fee for an oxygen tank. According to protocol, it is mandatory for an oxygen tank and other medical equipment to be on board an aircraft whenever an Israeli president or prime minister flies abroad.[67]

Treatment of female passengers

In September 2014 it was reported that there have been repeated incidents where ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to sit next to women passengers, sometimes delaying flights. As result, a petition was initiated with Change.org to pressure El Al to alter their policy of allowing ultra-Orthodox passengers on flights to negotiate switching seats. The petition reads: "Why does El Al Airlines permit female passengers to be bullied, harassed, and intimidated into switching seats which they rightfully paid for and were assigned to by El Al Airlines? One person's religious rights do not trump another person's civil rights."[68][69][70]

Following the incidents, Iris Richman, founder of Jewish Voices Together, a group created to address issues of religious pluralism in Israel and the U.S., encouraged passengers to protest this behavior through the US government, referencing "49 U.S. Code § 40127 – Prohibitions on discrimination: Persons in Air Transportation." According to this directive, she wrote, "An air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry." Richman contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, and stated the department "is willing to investigate any situation where any employee of a carrier – i.e. a steward/ess – participated in asking someone to change a seat because of their gender."[71]

In November 2014 Tova Ross in the Forward, the most influential nationwide Jewish media outlet;[72] disagreed that this is discrimination of women. She wrote, "...If we [women] want the right to pray and practice and dress in the ways we see fit, why do we cast such caustic aspersions on the premise of a man who calmly asks to change his seat in order for him not to stray from his preferred religious outlook?"..."A favor for a fellow human being, no matter how archaic we may deem his beliefs. We are indulging a request that we may neither understand nor agree with, but if it doesn’t really put us out, if the flight isn’t full and there is in fact someone who will easily volunteer to switch seats, then what is everyone’s colossal problem with the mere premise?" [73]

El Al said that it would not put a policy in place to handle situations where male Haredim refuse to sit next to female passengers, but would instead attempt to satisfy passengers involved in such incidents on a case by case basis.[74]

In February 2016, an Israeli woman named Renee Rabinowitz filed a lawsuit against El Al after being involved in an incident where an ultra-Orthodox man refused to sit next to her on a flight from Newark International Airport to Tel Aviv and the flight attendants asked her to move seats. By her own admission though, she was happy to oblige after talking to her seatmate. She was however upset that "The flight attendant treated me as if I was stupid”. El Al has insisted that there was no gender discrimination on El Al flights, that the flight attendant had made it clear to Ms. Rabinowitz that she was in no way obligated to move. Much as with any seating issue on flights, including overweight or disabled passengers, the airline always tries to find amicable solutions.[75][76]

Other incidents

In 2013, the media reported that an El Al flight unprecedentedly returned to the gate to retrieve an 11-year-old cancer patient, Inbar Chomsky, who was removed from the flight after she misplaced her passport. Just before takeoff, her passport was found in another passenger's backpack, and the crew began to negotiate for the plane to return and pick up the distressed young traveler on her way to a summer camp for children with serious illnesses. El Al released a statement noting that "planes rarely return to the gate after departing...but when the passport was found on the plane...a decision was made and the plane returned to pick up Inbar.”[77]


Main article: El Al destinations
El Al destinations.
  El Al destinations
  Cargo only destinations
  Codeshare only destinations

El Al serves destinations on five continents with a well-developed European network that also takes in important cities in Russia, the Baltic region and CIS member states. The airline serves a number of gateway cities in North America and has expanded its service to cover central and southeast Asia (Bangkok, Mumbai) and the Far East (Beijing and Hong Kong). However, El Al's inability to overfly Saudi Arabian airspace, along with that of several other Arab countries, has reduced their ability to further expand their route network in Asia. It also offers services to Johannesburg in South Africa.[78][79] El Al also operated domestic flights to Eilat for a while, ending them in October 2013.[80]

Codeshare Agreements

El Al codeshares with the following airlines:[81]


Current fleet

An El Al Boeing 737-800 on short final to Schiphol Airport in 2012

El Al has an all-Boeing fleet composed of the following aircraft (as of October 2016):[82]

El Al Fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Option Passengers Notes
F C Y Total
Boeing 737-800 10 16 126 142
4 36 144 180 Operated for subsidiary Up
1 189 189 Operated for subsidiary Sun d'Or
Boeing 737-900ER 8 16 156 172
Boeing 747-400 6 12 49 348 409 To be replaced with Boeing 787s by 2020[83]
Boeing 767-300ER 7 16 211 227 To be replaced with Boeing 787s by 2020[83]
Boeing 777-200ER 6 12 35 232 279
Boeing 787-8 7[84]
Boeing 787-9 9[85][86]
El Al Cargo Fleet
Boeing 747-400F 1
Total 43 16 -

Historic fleet

A former El Al Boeing 767-200ER
A former El Al Boeing 747-200B

On November 26, 2012, El Al retired its last Boeing 757-200 after 25 years of service.[87] The last Boeing 767-200ER in the fleet was retired on September 22, 2013 while the last Boeing 737-700 was phased out on May 10, 2016.[88]

Fleet History
Aircraft Introduced Retired
Boeing 707-300C 1965 1992
Boeing 720B 1962 1980
Boeing 737-200 1981 2000
Boeing 737-700 1999 2016
Boeing 747-100 1977 1988
Boeing 747-200B 1971 2001
Boeing 747-200C 1975 2006
Boeing 747-200F 1979 2012
Boeing 757-200 1987 2012
Boeing 767-200 1982 2012
Boeing 767-200ER 1984 2013
Bristol Type 175 Britannia 1960s 1960s
Lockheed Constellation 1951 1960s
Douglas DC-4 1949 1967
Curtiss C-46 1940s 1950s
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 1998 2000


El Al's historic, superseded livery featured a turquoise/navy blue stripe down the side of the aircraft, and a turquoise tailfin with the flag of Israel at the top. El Al's logo was featured above the front run of windows on each side of the plane in the turquoise/navy scheme.[89] The new livery features a blue stripe with a thick silver border on the bottom that sweeps across the side of the aircraft near the wing, disappears over the top of the plane and reappears at the bottom of the tailfin. The El Al logo is part of the design, although it has been changed slightly since then. Most of El Al's aircraft are named for Israeli cities, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bet Shemesh, Nazeret, Haifa, and others. The cities names are located near the nose of the plane beneath the cockpit windows.[90]

By contrast, El Al's cargo plane livery in the past lacks the painting of Israel flag and its airline identity; only a word "Cargo" appears on the fuselage. Subsequently, the newer cargo plane livery (including the current Boeing 747-400F) has the airline identity painted but otherwise it is painted in white.


El Al Economy class in-flight vegan meal
El Al Business class in a Boeing 757-200

Frequent flyer program

Matmid is El Al's present frequent flyer program. King David club cards (red) were issued 1991. It was re-launched in 2004 following the merger of El Al's previous frequent flyer programs. It has five tiers: Matmid, Matmid Silver, Matmid Gold, Matmid Platinum and Matmid TOP Platinum. Points accumulated in the program entitle members to bonus tickets, flight upgrades, and discounts on car rentals, hotel stays, and other products and services. Points are also awarded for travel with partner airlines, as well as for nights at partner hotels and for credit card purchases.[91] Matmid points can be collected on most flights operated by South African Airways, Sun D'Or, Qantas and limited Aeroméxico flights[92] Points are accumulated for any fares (ex. promotions), and points age—i.e. lose their validity after three years. To join Matmid, a one-time fee must be paid.


The King David Lounge is the name adopted by El Al for special airport lounges that serve the airline's premium class passengers. There are six King David Lounges worldwide at the key airports at Ben Gurion International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, London Heathrow Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.[93] All King David Lounges offer drinks, snacks, newspapers and magazines (Israeli and foreign), while some lounges also offer free Wi-Fi internet access. The King David Lounge at Terminal 3 at Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion airport is equipped with telephone, shower facilities and a spa; it has a separate section for first-class passengers.[94]

Accidents and incidents

Monument for the Bijlmer disaster, Amsterdam of 4 October 1992. The monument was designed by architect Herman Hertzberger together with survivors.

Notable El Al employees

El Al flight attendant in the 1950s


Flight attendants

See also


  1. Most, but not all, El Al's pilots are former pilots of the Israeli Air Force. An article dedicated to an El Al female captain can be found at With Yom Haatzmaut Festivities, a Gender Barrier Is Broken – The Sisterhood – Forward.com


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