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It wasn’t very long ago that EL AL’s route options were incredibly restricted thanks to the political situation in the Middle East. With various Arab countries refusing to give the airline permission to pass through their airspace, flights to a number of destinations to Israels’s east were uneconomical or logistically impossible. Recent events, however, have started to change this.
As far as air travel is concerned, the past few years have seen some key changes to the political landscape in the Middle East. In 2020, a historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates resulted in Israeli carriers being allowed to fly to the UAE and to overfly its airspace, and the result of a deal announced just a few weeks ago is that Israeli airlines will soon have (mostly) unrestricted access to Saudi Arabian airspace for the very first time (once all the necessary paperwork has been filed).
It’s this latest agreement that is big news for El Al.
Not being able to use Saudi’s airspace (except for flights to Bahrain and the UAE) has been making life tough for EL Al’s route planners and has meant that flights to some destinations in Asia have been longer than they would otherwise have been (as EL Al avoided Saudi Airspace), and has made other routes unviable.
Now, however, with Saudi airspace about to open up to Israeli carriers, new options are opening up for El Al and the airline appears keen to capitalize.
On Monday, El Al’s Director General used a tourism conference to announce that the airline intended to use its new freedom to overly Saudi Arabia to revisit its plans to offer direct flights between Israel and Australia.
El Al had planned to trial non-stop flights between Israel and Australia back in 2020 but the pandemic put paid to those plans and the test flights to/from Melbourne never took place.
Now, with demand for travel picking up and with El Al soon to be allowed to use Saudi airspace, the route to Australia looks more promising than ever, and with proposed flight times reduced by up to two hours (the flights planned for 2020 would have had to skirt Saudi airspace), El Al has Australia in its sights once again.
At the time of writing, I can’t find any official confirmation as to which city in Australia El Al will serve with its new route, but as the airline’s original plans included Melbourne, it’s probably safe to assume that Melbourne is still El Al’s preferred Australian destination.
No suggested schedule has yet been put forward and as far as I can tell, no launch date has been mentioned, but I’d be surprised if El Al wasn’t flying non-stop to Australia by the end of the year (and in time for the Southern Hemisphere summer).
In other El Al news, the airline has also confirmed that it is resurrecting plans to launch flights to Tokyo.
A Tel Aviv – Tokyo route had been announced in 2019 with a scheduled launch date in March 2022 but after the pandemic took hold, those plans were put on the back burner. Now, with demand for air travel edging closer to levels last seen in 2019, El Al says that it is ready to revisit its plans for flights to/from Tokyo although no firm launch date has been announced.
El Al has confirmed that it’s ready to revisit its plans to offer non-stop service between Israel and Australia and with Saudi Arabia in the process of opening up its airspace to Israeli airlines, El Al should be able to cut up to 2 hours off the schedule that it had originally planned to trial back in 2020.