The Inside Story Of How El Al Decided To Remain An All-Boeing Carrier With Its Largest Ever Aircraft Order

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El Al currently has 24 737NGs (consisting of 16 Boeing 737-800s and 8 Boeing 737-900ERs) 6 Boeing 777-200ERs (only some of these are currently operational), and 16 Dreamliners (consisting of 4 Boeing 787-8s, and 12 Boeing 787-9s).

In March, the Israeli flag carrier announced that it would acquire up to 12 more 787-9s. One was built for Air China and will arrive this summer, with a dated 2-2-2 business class configuration and no premium economy seating. Another 787-9 built for El Al is expected in 2025 and another in 2026 with the regular configuration. 3 more will arrive between 2029-2030. And the airline has options to buy 6 more, for a potential fleet of 28 Dreamliners.

For the past 14 months, the airline has been negotiating with Airbus and Boeing to replace its aging 737NG fleet with the A321neo or 737MAX.

And yes, they were real negotiations. At times, it seemed like Airbus was going to win the battle, but Boeing came out swinging and heavily discounted their planes to keep El Al as one of the few airlines in the world with an all-Boeing fleet.

Yesterday, El Al’s board decided to hammer out the final details exclusively with Boeing. The airline expects to order approximately 30 737MAX aircraft, its largest ever aircraft order.

They would arrive starting in 2027 and running through about 2032. The airline’s older 737-800s would be replaced first, with the 737-900s being retired towards the final years of the order fulfillment.

The current thinking is that the majority of those will skew towards the larger MAX9 and MAX10 variants, but that will be finalized when the order is placed in the next few months. Boeing pushed the MAX10 option hard, and El Al is excited to take delivery of the largest 737MAX variant and the majority of the order is likely to be for that MAX10.

The airline’s 737-800 currently seats 166 in a 2-class configuration and the 737-900 currently seats 175. Expect the airline to gain about 25-30 seats per plane if they swap those out for the MAX9 and MAX10 respectively. With Ben Gurion becoming more crowded, larger plane capacity will help with congestion and gate/slot limitations.

Of course, the MAX10 is not yet certified and the FAA has declined to provide a timetable for the certification of that plane. El Al isn’t particularly concerned about that plane failing to materialize due to American, Delta, and United all having large orders for the variant. Additionally, there would be penalties for Boeing if they can’t deliver the MAX10s, along with majorly discounted options if they have to downgauge the variant order.

Obviously, Airbus would have loved to win over an all-Boeing carrier. However, due to their huge order backlog, they were not able to deliver any planes until 2029.

Would it have been politically tenable to order Airbus, despite Israel’s deep ties with the US? The airline didn’t receive pressure from the Israeli or US government to order Boeing. There were also options to outfit the Airbus order with US-manufactured engines, with the majority of the plane’s parts coming from the US.

But in the end, despite intense negotiations, Airbus was unwilling to match the steep discounting that Boeing was willing to offer to keep El Al an all-Boeing airline. Of course, the timing worked out in El Al’s favor as well. Unsurprisingly thanks to the Alaska Air 737 MAX9 incident, 2024 has been a record-low year for 737MAX sales. Boeing needs to keep taking 737 MAX orders and will do what it takes to make those sales.

Aside from the price, for El Al, there are advantages to remaining all-Boeing. Fleet commonality means there are lower overall costs and the airline won’t incur transition costs to train pilots and technicians for Airbus.

Of course, El Al has stayed on top of Boeing’s safety woes, but they are confident that the manufacturer and the FAA will correct all safety issues, ensuring that the 737MAX fleet is safe to fly.

El Al’s current 737 fleet does have a Sky Shield anti-missile defense system, though the 787 fleet doesn’t due to Boeing’s high asking price for that option. This order will include the option to have that system in place.

The estimated cost of the order, including substitute engines and spare parts, is between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars, subject to several various adjustments. Airbus and Boeing don’t disclose exact sale prices and don’t allow airlines to break down the exact plane cost after credits, so that’s just a ballpark figure.

With a range of about 3,600 miles, the plane can cover the Middle East, Europe, India, and Northern Africa, though it won’t have the legs to make it to the US, Far East, Thailand, or Southern Africa.

It’s possible that a 737MAX sub-fleet could be installed with lie-flat business class seats for premium markets, though that decision will be made in the coming months as well.

Is El Al concerned about placing a big MAX order, only for Boeing to finally retire the 737 and create a new narrowbody aircraft from scratch?

Not in particular. After all, even if the project received a green light today, it would take a decade in the best-case scenario. More likely, it would take 2 decades to be drawn up, designed, built, certified, and brought to market. With El Al’s 737 fleet due for a refresh, it will have no regrets about locking in the MAX order now.

What do you think of the decision to stick with the Boeing 737MAX over the Airbus A321neo?

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33 Comments On "The Inside Story Of How El Al Decided To Remain An All-Boeing Carrier With Its Largest Ever Aircraft Order"

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

Jake

Airbus has wider seats, bigger restrooms and is a company that produces safe aircraft. Boeing is a rotten choice.

Sam

It’s the airline that picks the seats/ bathroom, not the manufacturer.

GUWonder

Before the airline can use the seats with the appropriate governmental approvals and insurance coverage, doesn’t the manufacturer of the plane have to first certify the seats of the airline-chosen supplier of seats? I would assume it goes much the same way with plane lavatory arrangements by the airlines.

R. Moshe

There is a slight seat width advantage but restrooms vary be decisions made by each operator.
In the past decade some aircraft have a slightly sider interior due to thinner insulation and maybe this will happen here as well.

Jake

I fly regularly and you may be correct with widebody planes but every A320, A321 and A319 I have been on has wider coach seats and larger restrooms than any 737 Max in economy. Also I don’t recall any Airbus crashes due to corporate business interests and cost cutting engineering jobs to third world countries.

Sy

Will elal retrofit the long Air China 787?

Also, why is Israel so public that the 787 doesn’t have Sky Shield?

A Yid

I think they should rethink this decision. They are know for having this extra Sky Shield feature which gives passengers peace and comfort while flying over the war torn middle east. Especially in times like these when Jews are more afraid then ever why not give your passengers some piece of mind even if it costs a couple extra thousand.

Peanut butter chocolate flavor

Maybe, though the plane does not fly over the middle east from USA to Israel

R. Moshe

This was well known anyway.

GUWonder

You should ask why Boeing and the media has been so public about that. I say it’s because we thankfully live in an open society and a lot of people love information more than they love a false hope of security by obscurity.

ys

I would be nervous to fly on the 737 max

Alex

Why does Boeing and Airbus not want the breakdown cost per plane being public?

Why

The inside story? Boeing came in cheaper! End of story.

Joe

They will need to triple their order if they want to be prepared. We are almost there 😉

E

Dan
I love these articles
So many nice details layed out
Keep em coming

Question:
After flying so much do you feel less comfortable and secured flying a 737Max after the accidents they had?

Anyone else want to comment?

Jeff

Great story, great insights! Thanks, Dan!

Yoni

Following current events closely I would venture to say, although nobody would ever say this publicly is that if ever the international situation against Israel gets worse for example eu sanctions they would not be able to get parts even though most are made in the USA. I think it’s strategic. I know it sounds far off but who would ever think we would be were we are today. Think Irans fleet

GUWonder

For now and some years into the future, I can’t foresee the FIGS (France, Italy, Germany and Spain) in Europe cutting off Israel from commercial/civilian plane supplies/services even in the face of potential ICC, ICJ and UN findings of weapons misuse by Israeli security forces. Just not going to happen under the current social and political dynamics applicable in these parts of relevance in Europe for Airbus planes, parts and services.

Farkert

Unfortunately most passengers boarding a flight don’t even know what type of aircraft they’re boarding
Unless they A)fly often or B)read Dans deals
And our opinions don’t count in any case as the airlines already made their decision
So this whole thread is for naught

Who cares?

Why is it unfortunate?

GUWonder

For a variety of reasons Airbus was less desperate than Boeing for a sale with buyer-demanded discounts at this time. Boeing has less leverage nowadays in negotiations against airline customers than Airbus has.

Tavster

Which airlines offer lie flat in 737 Max? Singapour Airlines?

Michael Gans

The EU has and will continue to sabotage Israel’s independence and need to protect itself!

Let’s check statistics. The following is a list of accidents and incidents involving the Airbus A320 family and Airbus A320neo family of jet airliners. As of March 2024, 180 aviation accidents and incidents have occurred, including 38 hull loss accidents, resulting in a total of 1490 fatalities.

Eran Levi cohen

With A321XLR EL-AL could have new routes with narrow body aircrafts
But the decision is reasonable from company point of view

keesje

Yes the A321NEO’s are just no good for ElAl. No politics at all, for sure.

bd

The American embassy in Jerusalem just sent me this:
Subject: Pilot Phase of Israeli Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA-IL) System to Begin June 1, 2024 for U.S. Citizens

From June 1, 2024 toJuly 31, 2024, the ETA-IL system will open for application submissions as a pilot program only for U.S. and German citizens (those holding valid U.S. and German passports). During the pilot phase, submitting an application will be voluntary and free. Beginning August 1, 2024, all travelers to Israel must have a valid visa or ETA-IL approval before traveling to Israel, and it will cost 25 shekels to submitthe application.

The ETA-IL website (https://israel-entry.piba.gov.il/) is already live, but no applications can be submitted until June 1, 2024. There are answers tofrequently asked questions (FAQs) on the website.

Yandmk

Any reason El Al doesn’t order any 777X for their flagship routes, rather than 787-9?
Or at least 787-10.
The 787-9’s aren’t really a replacement for their retired 747s.
(There’s a reason many nights have 4 scheduled flights to NYC between 12:05 – 1:20am instead of 2-3 flights they used to have)

hi

i like the a320 family much better

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