Israeli airline El Al intends to begin direct flights between Tel Aviv and Melbourne by June 2024, creating the first non-stop link between Israel and Australia.
“We look forward to launching our first ever non-stop flights to Melbourne as we position Victoria as Israel’s gateway to Australia,” says El Al CEO Dina Ben Tal Ganancia, outlining plans for three Boeing 787 Dreamliner services per week on the the 15-hour route.
Those flights were expected to take wing in 2020, until the pandemic changed the shape of air travel around the world.
El Al this week inked a Letter of Intent with the Victorian Government, which is supporting the initiative “to strengthen business connections and create jobs locally.”
Israel is also an important market for our international education sector, with 45 per cent of Israeli students studying in Australia enrolled in Victorian institutions in 2019.
“More international flights to such an important trading partner will power our economy and boost our status as a key destination for tourism, trade and investment,” says Victoria’s Minister for Industry and Innovation Ben Carroll, who estimates the airline will deliver a $48 million annual boost to the state’s economy.
Testing the waters
In 2019, El Al’s then-regional direct for Asia, Oceania and South Africa, Yoav Weiss, spoke to Executive Traveller about an intended trial of the Tel Aviv-Melbourne route.
“The trial consists of two major elements,” Weiss said. “The first is the commercial one, whether there will be demand and whether people would be willing to pay a premium for flying non-stop.”
“The Australian market is a very good market for Israel, there is a very big Jewish and Israeli community in both Sydney and Melbourne.”
“We have a lot of business coming from Australia, flying with Qantas via Bangkok or Hong Kong, and also via Johannesburg. But it wasn’t until we received our brand new Boeing 787 that we could consider a non-stop operation to make it all the way ‘down under’. This idea was going around for a while, and we decided to give it a try.”
This opens up the second role of these three special flights, “an operational trial, to see if planning of the flying routes is possible to execute in real time, what will be the fuel consumption, what will be the load consumption and so on,” Weiss explains.
“So in that respect, the operational trial is maybe the most important part of this trial, and alongside with the commercial part these three flights should give us a good picture of that aspect.”
Weiss says that while most of El Al’s Melbourne-based passengers on the three test flights conducted in 2020 ended their journey at Tel Aviv, an on-going scheduled service would realise the city’s role as a connecting hub to the rest of Europe.
“El Al offers many, many destinations in Europe, most of them on a double daily basis, and Ben Gurion Airport has a very smooth connecting process.”
Inside El Al's Boeing 787 Dreamliner
London-based design firm PriestmanGoode helped shape El Al's Dreamliners with new seats and cabins, along with an updated livery to better reflect the airline's flag-carrier status.
The 'Business First' cabin features 32 seats with direct aisle access, and follows a staggered 1-2-1 layout similar to that of United Airlines' latest Polaris product.
Each seat is 21" wide, and combines a clear sense of well-appointed personal space with handy shelves and stowage nooks.
The seats transform into a 78" fully-flat bed, with plenty of movies and TV shows piped through to the 16" HD video screen.
The business class cabin itself is finished in rich tones of champagne, chocolate and wood.
Behind this are 28 premium economy seats – a first for El Al – in a 2-3-2 arrangement of 38" pitch. The seats themselves are 19.4" wide, with 13" screens and a personal storage recess on the back of each seat.
The 222 standard economy seats (30-31" pitch, 17" width) include 12" screens plus AC and USB charging sockets.
While El Al doesn't belong to any of the major three airline alliances, its position as a Qantas partner means that El Al flights can be booked using Qantas Points, while El Al flights booked under a QF codeshare will also earn a full serve of Qantas Points.