Update 10/30: Due to the war in Israel, El Al service to Dublin, Marseille, and Tokyo is suspended as of tomorrow, with plans to resume in March.
Service start to India is suspended indefinitely.
Other routes will retain service but will see decreased flights, with changes to be announced.
Due to current security conditions, we are updating our flight schedule. We are temporarily suspending operations for certain seasonal routes to Dublin, Marseille, and Tokyo, starting from October 31, 2023, with plans to resume in March 2024. Additionally, flights to India are… pic.twitter.com/8spGUQihkC
— EL AL USA (@ELALUSA) October 30, 2023
El Al has also sent messages like this to passengers flying to Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand:
In response to the current situation in Israel and following consultations with security officials and the Israel Airport Authority,
changes have been made to our flight schedule. Your flight LY088 from Phuket on 31.10 will depart at 18:10 and will arrive on 01.11 at 00:30.
The flight duration will now be 11.30 hours.
We hope for your understanding and for better days.
At your service,
EL AL Israel Airlines”
That’s due to El Al now avoiding flying over Oman on the way to Thailand:
The previous route, that has been in use since March, crossed Omani airspace and flew over the Gulf of Oman, which was notably close to Iran’s airspace:
Regional map for context:
Flights to Dubai are still operating as normal:
Update 3/23: Thanks to this agreement, El Al will fly 4 weekly flights to Mumbai (5.5 hour flight time) and 2 weekly flights to Delhi (6.5 hour flight time) starting in October. Tickets go on sale next month and flights will be 2-3 hours shorter than when they previously operated.
Update 3/15: Thanks to this agreement, El Al will fly 3 weekly flights to Melbourne starting in June 2024.
Update 2/26: El Al flight 83 took just 7 hours and 49 minutes, a whopping 3 hours less than yesterday’s Tel Aviv-Bangkok flight!
Update, 2/26: El Al flight 83 from Tel Aviv to Bangkok departing at 8:15pm IST tonight will be the first commercial Israeli flight to fly over Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz!
Flight 81 from Tel Aviv to Bangkok yesterday took 10 hours and 44 minutes, but flight 83 is expected to take less than 8 hours!
זה קורה הערב: אל על קיבלה אישור רשמי מרשות התעופה של עומאן לטוס מעל למרחב האווירי של עומאן!
הטיסה הראשונה שתטוס בנתיב מקוצר היא טיסת ly083 מתל אביב לבנגקוק שתמריא בשעה 20:15 הערב. משך הטיסה המשוער כ-8 שעות pic.twitter.com/nrUD7stkHv
— Michal Raz Chaimovitz | 'מיכל רז חיימוביץ (@gotomichal) February 26, 2023
Originally posted on 2/23:
Israel-Arab geopolitical relations have come a long way since the Abraham Accords were announced in August 2020.
Previously it would have been unthinkable to have El Al have a full partnership with Abu Dhabi based Etihad or for there to be a kosher restaurant in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
I was just a curiosity for locals when I visited the UAE in 2017, while there are now 16 flights a day between Israel and the UAE. There are also now nonstop flights from Israel to places like Bahrain and Morocco.
One big missing piece remained, the ability for Israeli airlines to fly over Arab countries.
Saudi Arabia previously only allowed them to do that for flights to the UAE, but in July agreed to allow them to do that for all flights.
However, Oman remained a holdout, refusing to allow Israel to overfly them, and therefore blocking Israeli airlines from taking a shortcut over the Middle East.
But as of today, Oman has agreed to open their airspace to all carriers.
As part of the Sultanate of Oman’s continuous efforts to fulfill its obligations under the Chicago Convention of 1944, the Civil Aviation Authority affirms that the Sultanate’s airspace is open for all carriers that meet the requirements of the Authority for overflyuing. pic.twitter.com/jNaqqDxZM1
— هيئة الطّيران المدني (@CAAOMN) February 23, 2023
It’s hard to overstate how critical this is to Israeli air connectivity.
For example, this is how El Al currently has to fly in order to avoid Omani airspace when flying to Bangkok, adding significant travel time:
That flight will now looking something more like this, though without the stop in Muscat, Oman:
This agreement will thus shave several hours off flights from Israel to the east.
El Al will be able to fly on routes to India on narrowbody 737s that currently eat up valuable widebody flight time. While it’s always nice to fly on a widebody plane like El Al’s 787 Dreamliner, if you can turn an 8 hour flight into 5 hour flight, switching to a 737 is a no-brainer. That frees up a widebody airframe to operate a new route that El Al hopes to launch, such as Melbourne or Tokyo.
Thanks to the agreement with Saudi Arabia, a flight to Melbourne goes from an 18 hour ultra-long haul that pushes the 787 to its limits into a 15 hour flight that the plane is more than capable of handling.
El Al won’t be the only airline to benefit from the new airspace.
Israeli low-cost carrier Arkia is looking into flying to destinations like Sri Lanka and Thailand that weren’t previously tenable with its narrowbody fleet. The airline will fly to Goa, India starting in November, a route that will be hours shorter thanks to the new overfly rights. I still think it’s a pity that their widebody A330-900neo order never materialized, though I’m happy I got the chance to be taken to Airbus Headquarters when that order was still on the books.
Hopefully the shorter travel time will also translate into lower airfare as well.
I’d expect the first Omani overflight to happen in the next week or so.
The network planners at Arkia, El Al, and Israir must be having a field day with all the possibilities!
Hopefully this also leads towards full diplomatic relations between Oman and Israel.
What new routes do you hope to see operate to Tel Aviv?