The national airline and flagship air carrier of Israel and a major international carrier.
El Al Israel Airlines, in Hebrew El Al Netive Awir Le-yisra’el, is the Israel national airline and flagship carrier. It was founded in November, 1948, by the government of Israel, shortly after the establishment of the new state. El Al is headquartered in Tel Aviv, which is also the airline’s hub. It was El Al’s inaugural flight that brought the country’s first president, Chaim Weizman, to Israel from Geneva, Switzerland. El Al flew its first commercial scheduled flights to Rome and Paris in July, 1949. By the 1980’s, the airline was flying routes from Tel Aviv to many of the major cities of Europe, as well as to Asia, Africa, and North and South America.
In 1981 and 1982, the Israeli government considered liquidation of the airline due to financial difficulties exacerbated by a government ban on Sabbath flights, but ultimately decided against it. The airline has had a history of setting aviation records: In June, 1961, El Al set a new world record for longest nonstop commercial flight on its first nonstop flight from New York to Tel Aviv using a Boeing 707, covering 5,760 statute miles in 9 hours and 33 minutes. In May, 1988, El Al set yet a new first, operating its longest nonstop flight in history: from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, a 7,000 statute mile trip, covered in thirteen hours and forty-one minutes. On May 24, 1991, an El Al Boeing 747 airlifted a record-breaking 1,087 passengers, Ethiopian Jews flying from Addis Ababa to Israel as part of Operation Solomon.
El Al operates a fleet of Boeing 747’s, Boeing 767’s, Boeing 757’s, and Airbus A320’s. In 2001, El Al introduced three new, technologically advanced, long-range Boeing 777-200ER models into its fleet. The new aircraft, powered by twin Rolls Royce Trent 895 engines capable of developing 95,000 pounds of thrust, can fly 5,561 miles nonstop with a full payload of passengers and cargo. Among the new features and amenities these aircraft offer to El Al passengers (6 in first-class, 47 in business, and 245 in tourist class) are the most comfortable seats available and fully digital electronic entertainment, with provisions for personal computers and interactive features. Their acquisition was part of the company’s overall strategy to expand service to business-class customers, toward which goal El-Al also invested $15 million in upgrading its other long-range airliners to match the standards of the 777.
El Al has described itself as “a unique combination of amenities and advantages earning international appeal and making El Al a preferred global gateway to every corner of the world.” Teshet, a subsidiary company wholly owned by El Al, operates travel agencies, catering facilities, and hotels in Israel, as well as airports in the United States. Teshet operates two kosher catering companies: Tamam, based in Israel, and Borenstein in New York. Teshet holds interests in Maman, handles cargo at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, manages the Laromme Hotel Chain, and is the Israel representative of the Howard Johnson Hotel Group, Alamo Rent-A-Car, Air Nevada, British Midland, and international technical aviation companies such as Pratt & Whitney and United Technologies. Another subsidiary, Arkia Inland Airlines, founded in 1950 and owned 50 percent by El Al, provides scheduled domestic air services within Israel and serves as El Al’s feeder carrier. El Al is the sole owner of yet another subsidiary airline, Sun D’or International Airlines. Sun D’or, operating charter flights between Israel and Europe, helps develop new routes and tourist markets for El Al.
Groenewege, Adrianus D. The Compendium of International Civil Aviation. 2d ed. Geneva, Switzerland: International Air Transport Association, 1999. A comprehensive directory of the major players in international civil aviation, with insightful and detailed articles. Weimer, Kent J. ed. Aviation Week and Space Technology: World Aviation Directory. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. An excellent introductory guide on all global companies involved in the aviation business. The information is basic but essential as a first introduction to each company.