[Update: Flight Landed!] El Al Gets Permission For Its First Flight Over Saudi Arabian Airspace To Abu Dhabi; The Shocking Reason It Will Fly A 737 And Not A Dreamliner

DDMS IconNever Miss Another Deal - Follow DansDeals on Facebook

Update: El Al’s flight 971 flew over Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi, cutting the flight time from over 7 hours to just 3 hours and 23 minutes!





El Al plane painted with peace in 3 languages:

El Al in Abu Dhabi for the very first time:





It has been a wild few months for Israeli-United Arab Emirates relations.

First we saw Etihad fly humanitarian flights nonstop from Abu Dhabi to Israel, first without their livery and then in full livery. Those were the first ever nonstop flights between the countries.

I asked back then if commercial flights will be next and just months later President Trump announced that the 2 nations would normalize their relationship and begin commercial nonstop flights.

Saudi Arabia has been watching closely to the response from the Arab world. They would love open relations with Israel as well, but don’t want to risk any sort of local unrest. But similar to the US recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and the US moving their embassy to Jerusalem, the response has thankfully been mostly quiet.

Last week I wrote about reports of Saudi Arabia granting airlines permission to overfly their airspace, but it was unclear if that would only apply to UAE airlines or if that would also apply to Israeli airlines. Saudi Arabia has granted permission for Air India to overfly their airspace, but they have never done so for an Israeli airline or any plane registered in Israel.

And now El Al will fly a US-Israeli delegation to the UAE next week and has been granted permission to fly over Saudi Arabian airspace!

El Al is saying that permission was granted due to US officials being onboard, but it’s still incredible and bodes well for future relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

El Al operations have been suspended since March 27th due to COVID-19, but they will make an exception for this flight.

El Al flight 971 will depart Tel Aviv on Monday, 8/31 at 10am and land in Abu Dhabi at 2:35pm local time, a scheduled flight time of just 3 hours and 35 minutes thanks to being able to fly over Saudi airspace:



El Al flight 972 will return the next day and land in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, 9/1 at 3:15pm local time:

Those flight numbers aren’t by accident. The international calling code for the UAE is 971 and the international calling code for Israel is 972!

The biggest surprise to me was that El Al will be flying a narrow-body 737-900 for such a historic flight. After all, Etihad flew a Dreamliner to Israel, why isn’t El Al doing the same?

The 737-900 for the mission was last flown on 3/25 and the pilots had to rush to Amsterdam for a refresher in a flight simulator, though I’m not sure why they can’t train in Israel, unless it’s due to union issues? After 5 months on the ground, the plane was flown and passed an airworthiness test.

But the big shocker is that El Al’s 787 Dreamliners don’t have the מגן רקיע or Sky Shield missile defense system installed. While many people say that they stick to El Al for that safety system, apparently it has never made it’s way onto El Al’s new flagship fleet. For that reason, Prime Minister Netanyahu has yet to fly in a Dreamliner.

The cost of Sky Shield is about a million dollars per plane and it’s supposed to be government funded. When El Al announced the 787 purchase it was also said that Sky Shield would be installed, so I was very surprised to learn that didn’t happen.

Sky Shield was created after Al Qaeda terrorists tried, but failed, to take down an Arkia 757 in 2002 with a surface to air missile.

Israel airlines are required to have the system installed on their planes, so I don’t understand why the 787s don’t have it?

El Al previously advertised that they converted nearly their entire widebody fleet from passenger to cargo, so presumably the 777 was not an option for this flight either.

The historic flight will thus be operated by a modest 737-900, as that fleet is outfitted with Sky Shield.

Hopefully El Al will be able to overfly Saudi Arabia with regular commercial flights to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But they may find it extremely difficult to compete with world class carriers like Abu Dhabi based Etihad and Dubai based Emirates.

Will you fly between Israel and the UAE when regular commercial flights begin?

HT: tavster and chff, via DDF

Leave a Reply

38 Comments On "[Update: Flight Landed!] El Al Gets Permission For Its First Flight Over Saudi Arabian Airspace To Abu Dhabi; The Shocking Reason It Will Fly A 737 And Not A Dreamliner"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


But at least “Duty Free Sales” will be available!


I have a feeling that that after this information is out in the public ELAL will install the SSMDS on all its dreamliners


This was your biggest surprise

“The biggest surprise to me was that El Al will be flying a narrow-body 737-900 for such a historic flight.”

I would have stopped at “The biggest surprise to me was that El Al will be flying”

Didn’t they cancel all flights through the end of September?


just 3 hours and 35 minutes?


Yes, including Mincha & Mariv



Fraidy b

How long did the flight take before?


Maybe the 787s don’t have the Sky Shield system because of technology/technology-use-approval issues related to the 787 fleet in particular.


I’m afraid C-Music isn’t coming to 787 anytime too soon. The real issue seems to be the lack of certification (presumably STC) on the aircraft. It isn’t ElAl or the Israeli government’s fault.

See this pamphlet by Elbit systems maker of C-Music:
It says the system is certified on 77/6/5/4/3 and A33/2 aircraft, that is why it never made it to the dreamliner.

BTW Sheldon Adelson’s private a340 was spotted in TLV about a year ago carrying the system, although it may have been a test, as the a340 isn’t certified to carry C-Music (although it may be that people in private aviation don’t really care all that much).


There are ways of installing something as a one off that are easier than installing it on a fleet. Same requirements, just large differences in paperwork.

Good Vibes

Which website did that screenshot with flight details come from (the one with the light blue background)?


amadeus GDS


If they dont have the Sky Shield and they need to by law, why have they been flying them to the US?

Chuchum Ainer

I don’t think you are right about Israeli airlines being required have them installed on all their aircraft.

The article you linked to seems to say that only for this flight it was requried.

Seems they only use them for higher risk destinations and routes.

Although they did say they would install it…..

Maalot Dafna Cole Haan Chevra

Wonder what the kosher food will be like once these flights start.
They’ll Probably have good shwarma like Kipshuto in Lakewood

Maier Solomon

“Israel airlines are required to have the system installed on their planes, so I don’t understand why the 787s don’t have it?”
They’re waiting for Eli Rozenberg to pay for it.


If they receive permanent approval to fly over KSA, it would materially decrease their flight times to Asia, India 🙂


The reason the 787s don’t have it is that Boeing is charging tens of millions of USD for the data necessary for installation.
At least that’s what calcalist is saying


i wonder why at the very end of the flight they flew around UAE and landed on the right side of the country and not fly straight over the water and approach the UAE from the left? I dont mean they shud fly over oman but under oman


Probably a special flight path normally used for military traffic as opposed to the regular commercial routes.


I meant to write under Qatar , not oman. why didnt they fly right beneath Qatar?




Maybe they should payback all the cancelled tickets before flying to Abu Dhabi


@Dan do you know if anyone has the ATC audio from Saudi, UAE, or Omani air space?

Also do you know why the plane went into Omani air space?

Deal Guy

Interesting that they made sure to fly directly over Riyadh.

Sammy L B

Not even one yarmulka on the flight……..

Doom and gloom

Of course there was. Especially Meir Ben Shabbat, Israel’s NSA. He can be also seen in the Pic with the officials above.


Maybe Oman was involved in the deal and part of it was they get to collect some overflight fees 😉


This answers why they used the 737 as has already been discussed here – not why they took a given flight path.


Why aren’t they wearing masks and why weren’t the mask refusers dramatically kicked off? Apparently public health makes exceptions for “important” people.


because they weren’t hareidi…