Here’s How El Al Circumvents Shabbos Flight Restrictions

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I wrote earlier today about the El Al flight 8 fiasco. That flight diverted to Gander and then pulled up to the gate in Athens just as Shabbos was about to start.  Reportedly at least a couple dozen religious passengers are now stranded there, but Chabad of Athens pulled through with Shabbos food and lounge space for them. A commenter notes that Rabbi Hendel is in NYC for Shabbos and that his Rebbetzin handled everything, so kudos to her! That sure beats eating Borenstein KSML leftovers for Shabbos!

But what happens to the non-Shabbos observant passengers that were on the jumbo jet?

El Al is not allowed operate passenger service on Shabbos. Aish has more background information on that.

The 747 took off from Athens and flew to Tel Aviv on Shabbos without any passengers onboard. El Al 737 aircraft 4X-EKI has been operating flights under the LY airline code all week long:



Photo credit: ErezS


You’ll notice the 2 most recent flights from Tel Aviv to Athens and back have the 6H airline code. That’s the code for Israir, a competing Israeli airline that is not bound by Shabbos restrictions. El Al tried to merge with Israir, but Israeli regulators blocked that merger earlier this year.

As I said before, the reason that El Al flew all the way to Athens instead of stopping in any Western Europe airport where there would not have been Shabbos issues was almost certainly purely financial. It’s far cheaper to send ferry flights from Tel Aviv to Athens than Tel Aviv to London, Paris, or Zurich. I think that will wind up being penny wise, pound foolish, but that remains to be seen. So much for their “Hachi babayit ba’olam” slogan that roughly means “the most at home in the world.” If that’s how you’re treated at home, it might be time to find a new home 😉

El Al has Israir operating the El Al 737 from Tel Aviv to Athens to pickup passengers tonight that are not Shabbos observant. I’m not sure what the logistics of that are or who the pilots work for, but I laugh at thinking about an airline like United having American operate one of their airplanes. Those passengers will fly back to Tel Aviv tonight on the El Al plane operated as Israir flight 5648.

I’m surprised that one 737 will be able to handle all of the non-religious passengers that were on the jumbo jet. It remains to be seen how the religious passengers will get back to Tel Aviv.

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42 Comments On "Here’s How El Al Circumvents Shabbos Flight Restrictions"

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Dan whoo you’re really taking this to heart!
Have a great Shabbos


“הכי בבית בעולם”
כפשוטו ממש

This is Israel, take it or leave it! With Elal the Israeli experience begins in חוץ לארץ.

Dani Klein

Dan, I love that you’re covering this. No other media coverage will exist, or if it does, it’ll quote your research.


Huge kudos to that Rebbitzin!
מי כעמך ישראל


Honestly, anyone who is shomer shabbat should not take flights so close to Shabbat. I’m sorry for those that are stranded, and I am super proud of chabad once again saving the day.
הכי בבית בעולם” Means a nice glass of kosher Champaign on board, best service by our very own, and yes, also an airline ran by people who shop at Costco, double stack coupons, and probably get DDF alerts! It’s no surprise to me that they tried to save a buck. But I’d still rather fly ElAl over any other carriers!


WHile i wouldn’t fly elal for comfort and loyalty credit reasons. I agree with the rest of this post. A shomer shabbat, should not have been on this flight.


Good job elal showing where their priorities lie


hi Dan. please don’t forget about us poor saps that booked the ba deal. responses to the thread appreciated. Shabbat shalom


I wonder why they didn’t just fly the 747 as Israir? Maybe they needed an Israir crew… I always though Elal flew on Shabbos during IROPS.


Why is it cheaper to send ferry flights from Athens?


Of course, it’s more complicated than this. That is not an Israir plane; it is a Sun d’Or plane. From the Sun d’Or website, we learn:

We are a charter flight company based at Ben-Gurion Airport and are fully owned by EL AL. We market scheduled, seasonal and special flights. The connection to EL AL is also reflected in our aircraft maintenance and in service on the ground and in the air, which are provided by EL AL staff. EL AL’s Matmid Frequent Flyer Club is another area that links the two airlines. We have grown and grown and made the airline a significant player in Israel‘s charter flight market. We are proud that, among our other achievements, we operate flights for incoming tourism to Israel.

The Company Today
Today Sun d’Or operates charter flights to some 40 destinations in Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. The airline operates two 185-seat 737-800 planes (registered: 4X-EKR, 4X-EKI). Furthermore, EL AL is entitled to operate flights using the Sun d’Or code.


Why quote Aish why not quote the original source the great Yehuda Avner in his book the prime ministers

Shulammis Saxon

The article IS written by Yehuda Avner


Don’t blame an airline for the Shabbat-Stranded passengers. I fly to HKG all the time on UA, and always come home on friday 10am flight, lands 2pm, and I KNOW that one day I will get diverted to chicago or something for weather or whatever, and get stranded for Shabbat. That is on me for flying Friday and taking that minimal (but existing) risk.


That’s one way to look at it. But the other way is that people purposely flew this particular airline knowing that even if there was a delay, they’d be “covered” for shabbos, and they weren’t.


Dan, what if there had not been any Shomer Shabbos passengers on the plane? Would it still had to have stopped in Athens or would it have flown to Ben Gurion and landed on Shabbos?


If a tree falls in the forest… and no one is there to hear….. 😉


Question… so are you saying that El Al had to unload all the passengers in Athens, even the non-observant ones and if so were arrangements made for them in hotels??


Why is anyone surprised they ElAl are blatant mechalleli Shabbos?

Aaron Hauptman

I feel sorry for all the Yidden on that flight both the religious and non-religious. However it is up to each of us to plan appropriately. I fly El Al, not because they are Shomer Shabbos or because it’s easier (it’s more of a hassle and more expensive than other airlines and their rewards program is awful). I fly El Al because I want to fly the safest airline to Israel and while I know Turkish Airlines is better in many respects, including price, I’d rather give my money to an Israeli company than an anti-Israeli country’s. Of course, some charedi groups would rather not support Israel, but that’s their choice.


I do not understand why you say El Al is safer than UA or DL. Not only are some of their planes much older and on many occasions they rent planes and flight crews from other countries.


I think El Al planes have anti-missile technology, and all the pilots are former IAF pilots.

David Moskowitz

That is a thing of the past. Do your research. They are just as safe if not less than any other national airlines. Besides for Spirit of corse.

mark levin

There is little else in the world that people see and connect with jews and the fact that they have that livery flying on Shabbos, is DISGUSTING! They could sprinkle holy water on it and call it a fish but the fact is, its a very large mogen dovid showing off “israel” in the skys.


Funny that you should mention fish — Pan Am used to have a dispensation from the Vatican so that Catholic passengers could eat airline meals with meat on Fridays. That newer religion later gave up strict observance of Friday fasts. An even newer religion was celebrating like crazy Friday, even after sundown, because of the end of Ramadan. I hope it didn’t upset anyone at El Al’s choice of Athens hotels.

Huge Fan

Mark, I appreciate your talk show on the radio, keep up the good work


From Kfar Chabad we regularly see El Al planes flying on Shabbos. Kol Chai radio in Israel presented the situation clearly. Being as El Al states that they are not just an airline, they are Israel, we know that unlike UA or DL, they do not even make a pretense about caring about customer service. The Israeli attitude is that we do not need the customer, the customer needs us.


Our connection to jews and Israel is Torah and Hashem. In time of sanhedrin a jew being mechalel shabbos was punished. Thank you Dan that you cater to “religous” penny pinchers and called out ElAl on doing the wrong thing.
For all you guys please dont stand on same side as mechalelei shabbos.


Dan I love your deals but please lay off the polictal commentary- you never fly elal anyway you always bash them no other airline has these restrictions. I am a frum Jew who chooses not to fly on shabbos or close to it. If other frum people decide to fly close to shabbos they are taking a risk no matter which airline. Not sure why we shouldn’t support the national airline of the biggest torah supporter the state of Israel! It’s OK to take the state’s money for kollels and then turn around and bash them for flying close to shabbos. Not fair! Accidents happen and those frum people on the flight know that there is always a risk. Other airlines would not make any accomodations for frum people


If I am reading this correctly, a modern airline (El Al) delayed a 747 full of passengers by landing in Athens to avoid travelling on a holiday (Shabbat) which a minority of Jews observe by not flying/travelling. I generally thing of Muslims as being more fanatical about their religion than Jews, but Emirates serves alcohol and food during Ramadan.

David B

The interesting thing about this is that I don’t think the passengers themselves would have been violating Sabbath laws by continuing on a plane that they were already on, it would be like riding a Shabbos elevator. The difficulty is that El Al itself promises not to fly on Shabbat. And of course if the plane had continued to Tel Aviv, it would have been much easier to make arrangements for the Sabbath observant who couldn’t leave the airport. So the whole thing was really just symbolic, not about helping passengers, including the religious one.


Don’t worry, El Al has even less respect to religious Jews than you do, same as the entire government as an whole. The reason why they landed is because they follow their own guideline not to fly on Shabbas, not because of religion observance but just for symbolic reasons to be viewed as the national airline of the Jewish people, Therefore they have no moral or religious problem to name the flight “Israir” for a few hours and fly it home on Shabbas, (fooled God?) But I’ll agree with you on the fact that we feel much more respected on Emirates i.e. certainly far more than ElAl.


האדמו”ר כבר אמר לד’ר חיים שיין רוצים שמירה מטרור אל תחללו את השבת




It appears that the way the frum passengers finally got to Israel was this flight: They normally fly a 737 on this route but motzas’h they flew a 787 in order to accommodate the extra passengers.
Also, to address your question about how they got all of the nonreligious pax on a 737, it seems there were two of them about 25 min apart. The other flew as Israir 5650: I can’t seem to find information on the a/c registration on that one.


Interesting how this stop likely necessitated Melacha to get the 787 in the air so close to Havdallah to be in ATH to get passengers.


If you follow the “track inbound plane” links on FlightAware, you find that the round trip to Athens was really an El Al 737 that had made a round trip to Naples on Friday and to Lisbon on Thursday. Apparently El Al livery does not an El Al flight make. It looks to me like El Al charters a plane from Israir, and then Israir charters one from El Al.


I understand that there are those in the Shomer Shabbos community that find it impossible to hear any criticism of El Al, an airline that has seen much better days, an airline that operates with old dilapidated planes, arrogant crew, and an attitude. However those things are all true but also true is that, like the state of Israel, El Al has no sincere commitment to Yiddishkeit including Shemiras Shabbos. If the El Al cheer squad could just take that on board and say you like to fly El Al because their PR machine talks to you, i.e. safer, more secure, Magen David on the wing etc. etc., do so but don’t claim the company is Shabbos observant. It simply is not. Its directors have no real idea what Shabbos means. Why they specially flew in a 787 to land in Athens after Shabbos is anyway bewildering. That is a very expensive exercise for 25 passengers. Would have been much cheaper to put them up in a hotel for another night and paid them some compensation. Why did they do it?

40 hr Delay- LY026 1/6/18

So much for their “Hachi babayit ba’olam” slogan that roughly means “the most at home in the world.” If that’s how you’re treated at home, it might be time to find a new home