Thursday night’s El Al flight 26 from Newark to Tel Aviv was delayed from 9:10pm until 1:07am. Its arrival into Tel Aviv was delayed from 1:32pm until 5:22pm. Candle lighting time in Jerusalem was at 6:20pm.
There were many religious Jews on the flight and emergency vehicles whisked the passengers to Jerusalem so that they would make it before Shabbos:
This type of delay is not uncommon.
Unless there’s a true emergency, there’s no good reason for booking this flight. Delays up to 4 hours can happen on the runway and there won’t necessarily be a way to exit a plane in that situation. It’s just not a safe assumption that you’ll be able to take advantage of emergency vehicles in case of a delay.
Earlier this year an El Al diversion caused a flight that was scheduled to land in Tel Aviv 3 hours before Shabbos to land in Athens after candle lightning time. El Al had to divert again due to Shabbos commitments, but they don’t have to give passengers enough time to get off the plane before Shabbos. The ensuing mess could have been avoided if religious Jews didn’t book flights that land too close to Shabbos.
I hope that Shabbos observing Jews can take these stories to heart and try to avoid taking flights that are scheduled to land within 6 or 7 hours of candle lighting time, unless there is a true emergency. That allows enough time for a 4 hour delay and time to get from the airport to your destination or it gives you the ability to wait 4 hours on the runway and then deboard at your origin airport without needing to cause a scene.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that El Al flights that land close to Shabbos or that depart within a couple of hours after Shabbos ends will require other Jews to do work on Shabbos.
It’s just a thought before the new year of 5779 begins tonight. May we all have a sweet new year!