End Of The Road For Sde Dov Airport, El Al’s First Class, And El Al’s 747s; Video Of El Al’s Queen Of The Skies Being Destroyed

El Al 747s in Goose Bay, January 2018
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It’s been an eventful week for Israeli aviation.

Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov Airport (SDV) closed for good on Monday. Ynet has a good history of the airport in Hebrew (you can use Chrome’s Translate feature).

Earlier this year Eilat Airport (ETH) closed for good, replaced by Ramon Airport (ETM), located 20 minutes further away from the city.

Flights from Ben Gurion (TLV) to Ramon (ETM) are much less convenient for Tel Aviv residents than from Sde Dov to Eilat. That likely means trouble for Eilat’s tourism numbers, which were already trending downward. Personally I found Eilat to be a bit of a dump and once they’re going to Ben Gurion, more Israelis may opt to fly to Cyprus, Greece, and other locations abroad over Eilat.

Others are more likely to drive to Eilat, which will hurt Israel’s domestic carriers.

Arkia Airlines, which was based out of Sde Dov, announced that they would layoff nearly 40% of their employees, sell off several of their planes, and suspend the acquisition of their 2 A330-900neos that were to operate between NYC and Tel Aviv. That’s a pity.

Last month I enjoyed watching Arkia planes landing at Sde Dov from Tel Aviv’s excellent Port-Namal, but it’s the end of an era for plane spotting from there:

El Al is actively phasing out their 747 fleet and this video of their “Rishon LeZion” Queen of the Skies being torn to shreds is hard for an aviation geek to watch:



I’m just a bit obsessed with the Queen of the Skies.

In 2016 I took Rafi to San Francisco to let him experience flying on the upper deck of the glorious 747 before United retired it.

In 2017 I flew to Hawaii on United flight 747, which was United’s final 747 flight. I even have a piece of a 747 in my office.

The final scheduled El Al 747 flight is El Al flight 4 on 9/9/19 from JFK to Tel Aviv, though that is subject to change.

El Al is also eliminating first class, with the final scheduled flight with first class being El Al flight 26 on 10/23/19 from Newark to Tel Aviv.

El Al hasn’t exactly kept their 747 fleet or their first class cabin up to date. El Al’s 787 business class will replace first class and it has mostly positive reviews, though there are some complaints about the width of the seat and the aisle.

As business class improves and as more fuel efficient airplanes come online, more and more airlines are getting rid of their first class cabins and their 747s.

It’s the end of an era and Haaretz has a nice sendoff article for El Al’s 747. The article is in Hebrew, but you can use Chrome’s translate feature.

Share your memories of the jumbo jet in the comments!

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33 Comments On "End Of The Road For Sde Dov Airport, El Al’s First Class, And El Al’s 747s; Video Of El Al’s Queen Of The Skies Being Destroyed"

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I saw that there is a hotel in Stockholm by the airport that is a converted 747. Looks awesome! They even have rooms in the cockpit, and in the individual engines


Fyi, it’s a hostel, not hotel. It looks kinda cool though.

uri katz

so strange that with Israeli ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that they couldn’t find anything useful to do with the retired aircraft


01/23/2020 from tlv-ewr ly 25 is a 777 with first class


Im not sure why, but somehow that cockpit laying there reminds me of a fish head for rh…


Can you reserve a first class seat if you’re booked in J on a 777 after 10/23?


Also, the biggest inconvenience of SDV’s closing is for many Eilat residents with chronic medical conditions who now have to travel farther from TLV for hospital visits in Gush Dan. The government is basically paying a ton to keep them taken care of with the two “downtown” airports now closed.


Dan, I agree about Eliat we visited this past spring , Timnah park and Solomon’s Pillars we’re far more interesting than anything we saw during the time we spent in Eliat

I guess that the “Israels’ Vegas” is Eliat’s true appeal for some. But I don’t much care for Vegas, Tahoe is nicer but not really into gambling or shows, I’m more of a credit card shark tho 😉

I flew on the upper deck of a UA 747 once SFO – NRT years ago when I was upgraded as 1K this was pre-NW merger and before I got into this hobby. It was a neat experience and the FA even sent me with a parting gift of Glen Fiddich.

The other flight I’ll never forget was the week after 9/11 the day flights resumed and being 1 of 2 passengers on a flight PDX-ORD. FA’s had TP roll races down the aisles for our in-flight entertainment.

I was headed to PDX for same flight when the planes hit the towers a week earlier.


Sde Dov is not really that much more convenient. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and the public transportation is poor. From TLV you’re in central tel aviv in 10-15 minutes on the train. The real issue is that TLV is a much bigger airport, and procedures take much longer. From wheels down to the street at Dov on a good day can be 15 minutes.


I enjoyed my stay in Eilat, mostly because of the off-the-pier snorkeling and the world-class aquarium. It was also a good starting point for overnight trips to Petra and Wadi Rum. But I got the impression that most Israelis chose it as a destination, over Cyprus or Greece, because of the casinos and VAT-free shopping.


what casinos? Gambling is illegal in Eilat.


5 min drive into Egypt


All I know is what I read online.

“If you are taking a trip to Israel, boy have they got a treat for you. The beautiful southernmost port city of Eilat brings gamblers the experience of a lifetime! Eilat presents a host of Casino Ships! You heard it right. You are taking a fabulous cruise while playing some great casino games. It’s quite the combination. This innovative form of entertainment gives gamblers more than what they could hope for. Make some big wins on board and you’ve made yourself all expense cruise! Here are some of the top casino ships at Eilat.”


And the Jerusalem Post reported in 2016 that the old airport might be converted into a casino. Sheldon Adelson’s name is mentioned. Not sure the current status of the plan, which Netanyahu supported back then.



the government shut down the casino boats long ago (2003, I believe) and impounded the boats. And the casino at the airport plan probably won’t happen.


I was in Eilat last week (4th time in that many years). The Herod’s Vitalis Hotel is a great, quiet retreat.

About the way you feel when the plane is destroyed, we feel the same when it happens to Jewish homes.

Final 747 flight

points availablity in first class on that flight

Michael A

1) Sde Sov is sad, its an important and valuable airport
2) The 747 deprecation couldn’t come soon enough, just got off an LY 747 and boy does it feel like 1999 called and they want their plane technology and interior back. Nothing worked on the plane, not TVs, Audio, etc… Lavatories were falling apart, overhead bins were tiny and from like 3 generations ago. This is in big contrast to BA which has kept their 747s mostly updated and in descent shape which has made flying them a descent experience.
3) The LY First class hasn’t been competitive in a decade+, it was an overpriced product that didn’t compete with any Business class offerings from major carriers, let alone First. Could you compare LY’s First Class to LH? BA? even AA? Certainly not CX! Its a joke and since they neglected to keep it competitive like the rest of the plane… so then it makes perfect sense to discontinue, invest in having a solid Business class offering, and stop relying on the Israeli/Jewish consume to always choose LY out of sheer patriotism. There are so many choices, on so many better routes and routings in and out of Ben Gurion, that choosing a different carrier makes perfect sense.


Once an aircraft hits a certain number of cycles/hours, the cost to maintain it skyrockets, If the plane was newer, it would have been converted to a freighter which 747s were designed to do. I ran IT for a company that made a lot of parts for Boeing.


Despite flying TLV-NYC every month in J I purposely avoided the 747 for so many reasons.

However last month the price gap between LY1 and LY27 was so steep that I decided to take one last ride. Good start as they bumped me to F. However as we were on our way to take off the electricity shut down and we were stuck there for 45mn, and as it missed it the 01:45am deadline before the take-offs shutdown we were stuck until they reopened at 05:00. They were nice enough to freight buses back to the terminal/lounges in the interim.

So from my perspective needless to say it’s time to retire this plane. 787 J is great overall, good privacy, good WiFi. My only complain is the seats, they could have chosen a better hard product but overall very decent.