- Distinguish from El Altet (an old name for Alicante Airport in Spain).
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2012)|
|Hubs||Ben Gurion International Airport|
|Airport lounge||King David Lounge|
|Fleet size||37 incl. cargo|
|Company slogan||"הכי בבית בעולם"
Literally: "The most at home in the world"
Casually: "Your home in the sky"
Translated by El Al: "Home Away From Home"
English speaking countries slogan: "It's not just an airline, it's Israel"
|Headquarters||Ben Gurion International Airport
Central District, Israel
El Al Israel Airlines Ltd (TASE: ELAL), trading as El Al (Hebrew: אל על, "To The Skies" or "Skywards", is the flag carrier of Israel. Since its inaugural flight from Geneva to Tel Aviv in September 1948, the airline has grown to serve some 45 destinations, operating scheduled domestic and international services and cargo flights to Europe, North America, Africa and the Near and Far East from its main base in Ben Gurion International Airport.
El Al in principle offers only kosher in-flight meals and does not fly passengers on the Jewish Sabbath or religious holidays. It is considered one of the world's most secure airlines, thanks to its stringent security procedures, both on the ground and on board its aircraft. Although it has been the target of many attempted hijackings and terror attacks, only one El Al flight was successfully hijacked. As Israel's national airline, El Al has played an important role in humanitarian rescue efforts, airlifting Jews from other countries to Israel, setting the world record for the most passengers on a commercial aircraft (single plane record of 1,122 passengers) by Operation Solomon when 14,500 Jewish refugees were transported from Ethiopia in 1991.
In 2012, El Al operated an all-Boeing fleet of 38 aircraft, flying over 4 million passengers, and employed a staff of 6,056 globally. The company's revenues for 2011 grew to $2.4 billion, totalling losses of $49.4 million compared to a profit of $57 million in 2010.
Early years 
In September 1948, Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, attended a conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Weizmann was scheduled to fly back to Israel in an Israeli government aircraft, but due to an embargo imposed on Israel at the time, this was not possible. An Israeli C-54 military transport aircraft was instead converted into a civilian plane to transport Weizmann home. The aircraft was painted with the logo of the "El Al/Israel National Aviation Company" and fitted with extra fuel tanks to enable a non-stop flight from Geneva to Israel. It departed from Ekron Air Base on 28 September, and returned to Israel the next day. After the flight, the aircraft was repainted and returned to military use.
The airline was incorporated and became Israel's national flag carrier on 15 November 1948, although it used leased aircraft until February 1949, when two unpressurized DC-4s were purchased from American Airlines. The acquisition was funded by the government of Israel, the Jewish Agency, and other Jewish organizations. The first plane arrived at Lod Airport (later renamed Ben Gurion) on 3 April 1949. Aryeh Pincus, a lawyer from South Africa, was elected head of the company. The first international flight, from Tel Aviv to Paris, with a refueling in Rome, took place on 31 July 1949. By the end of 1949, the airline had flown passengers to London and Johannesburg. A regular service to London was inaugurated in the middle of 1950. Later that year, El Al acquired Universal Airways, which was owned by South African Zionists. A state-run domestic airline, Israel Inland Airlines, was founded in which El Al had a 50% stake.[when?]
El Al's cargo service was inaugurated in 1950 and initially relied on military surplus Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft. Same aircraft type was used also for passengers transportation in certain routes. The same year the airline initiated charter services to the United States, followed by scheduled flights soon afterwards. From its earliest days the operation of the airline in keeping with Jewish tradition has been a source of friction; when the Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion was forming his first coalition, the religious parties would not join unless Ben-Gurion promised that El Al would serve only kosher food on its flights and would not fly on the Jewish Sabbath.
The airline was involved in several covert operations: In the early 1950s, El Al airlifted over 160,000 immigrants to Israel from India, Iran, Iraq and Yemen as part of Operation Magic Carpet and Operation Ezra and Nehemiah. In 1960, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was captured and flown from Argentina to Israel on an El Al aircraft.
In 1955, after using Lockheed Constellations for several years, the airline purchased two Bristol Britannia aircraft. El Al was the second airline in the world to fly this plane, after the British Overseas Airways Corporation. In 1958, El Al ran a newspaper advertisement in the US featuring a picture of a "shrunken" Atlantic Ocean ("Starting Dec. 23, the Atlantic Ocean will be 20% smaller") to promote its non-stop transatlantic flights. This was a bold step: the airline industry had never used images of the ocean in its advertising because of the widespread public fear of airline crashes. The advertisement, which ran only once, proved effective. Within a year, El Al's sales tripled.
Expansion in the 1960s 
Despite the purchase of its Britannias and inauguration of non-stop transatlantic flights the airline remained unprofitable. When Efraim Ben-Arzi took over the company in the late 1950s, the Britannias were replaced by the Boeing 707 jet airliner. The first year that El Al turned a profit was 1960. That year, more than 50 percent of the passengers flying into Israel arrived on El Al flights. On 15 June 1961, the airline set a world record for the longest non-stop commercial flight: an El Al Boeing 707 flew from New York to Tel Aviv, covering 5,760 miles (9,270 km) in 9 hours and 33 minutes. By this time, El Al was carrying 56,000 passengers a year—on a par with Qantas and ahead of established airlines like Loftleiðir. In 1961, El Al ranked 35th in the world in accumulated passenger distance. El Al's success continued into the late 1960s. In 1968, regular flights to Bucharest were inaugurated, and cargo flights began to Europe and the United States. The airline also established a catering subsidiary, Teshet Tourism and Aviation Services Ltd. All these ventures brought in a profit of $2 million that year.
In 1968, El Al experienced the first of many acts of terrorism that have been perpetrated against the airline. On 23 July, the only successful hijacking of an El Al aircraft took place, when a Boeing 707 carrying 10 crew and 38 passengers was taken over by three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The aircraft, El Al Flight 426, which was en route from Rome to Tel Aviv, was diverted to Algiers by the hijackers. Negotiations with the hijackers lasted for 40 days. Both the hijackers and the passengers, including 21 Israeli hostages, were eventually freed. The hijackers were said to have believed Israeli General Ariel Sharon was on the flight. According to Sarah Levy, it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who saved Sharon's life, by advising him the night before to take a different flight. On 26 December of the same year, two PFLP members attacked an El Al aircraft at Athens International Airport, killing an Israeli mechanic. The Israeli Defense Forces responded to the incident on 29 December, with a night-time raid on Lebanon's Beirut Airport, destroying 14 planes on the ground belonging to Middle East Airlines, Trans Mediterranean Airways and Lebanese International Airways. The military action was responsible for the demise of the LIA, which had most of its fleet destroyed.
On 18 February 1969, Palestinians attacked an El Al plane at Zurich Airport killing the copilot and injuring the pilot. One Palestinian attacker was killed and others were convicted but later released. Between September and December of that year, bomb and grenade attacks occurred at El Al offices in Athens, West Berlin, and Brussels. This wave of violence culminated in the failed hijacking of an El Al 707 by Patrick Arguello and Leila Khaled on 6 September 1970, as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings.
The 1970s and 1980s 
El Al acquired its first Boeing 747 in 1971. Many felt it was a risky purchase given the high cost of the plane and fear of attacks, but El Al operations flourished after the purchase. Another 747 was delivered in 1973 and was used to start non-stop service from Tel Aviv to New York (707s had flown the eastward nonstop since around 1961).
In the mid-1970s El Al began to schedule flights from airports outside of Israel that departed on the Jewish sabbath and landed in Israel after it had finished. The religious parties in the government claimed that this was a violation of Jewish law and contrary to the agreement signed in the early days of the state, in which El Al promised to refrain from flying on the sabbath. In 1982 the newly re-elected prime minister Menachem Begin, brought before the Knesset a vote to ban Sabbath flights once again (it passed by a vote of 58 to 54). Outraged, the secular community threatened to boycott the airline. In August 1982 El Al workers blocked Orthodox and Hassidic Jews from entering the airport.
In 1977 El Al established a charter subsidiary, El Al Charter Services Ltd., later renamed Sun D'Or International Airlines Ltd. Two years earlier the airline had suffered its first losses since the late 1950s, largely a product of the global recession. The management changed three times towards the end of the 1970s, until Itzhak Shander was named president. As the political situation in Iran deteriorated, El Al began to airlift Jews to Israel. All the airline's infrastructure in Iran was eventually destroyed. El Al flights to Cairo were inaugurated in April 1980, following the Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty. In late 1982, after a long period of labor disputes and strikes, El Al operations were suspended. The government appointed Amram Blum to run the company, which lost $123.3 million in the fiscal year ending April 1983. The airline also sold its stake in Arkia at this time.
Operations resumed in January 1983 under receivership. The government purchased two new Boeing 737 aircraft and announced plans to acquire four Boeing 767 jets at the cost of $200 million. Within four years, El Al was profitable again. It broke another record, since then surpassed, in May 1988 with a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, a journey of 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km) in 13 hours and 41 minutes. Flights to Poland and Yugoslavia were inaugurated in 1989.
In January 1990, North American Airlines began providing feeder services to El Al's US destinations. El Al held a 24.9 percent stake in the airline until selling it back to Dan McKinnon in July 2003. By this time, El Al was operating a fleet of 20 aircraft, including nine Boeing 747s, and had begun replacing its aging Boeing 707s with the Boeing 757. Early that year, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, El Al inaugurated regular flights to Moscow. No airlifts from the former Soviet Union were possible at the time but permission was granted in 1991. Charter flights commenced in August 1991, with immigrants also occupying all available seats on El Al's scheduled routes. In cooperation with Aeroflot, El Al flew more than 400,000 Jewish immigrants to Israel within a three-year period.
On 24 May 1991, an El Al Boeing 747 cargo plane airlifted a record-breaking 1,087 Ethiopian Jews from Addis Ababa to Israel in the framework of Operation Solomon. Three babies were born during the flight. The plane carried twice as many passengers as it was designed for. In less than 36 hours, 14,500 Ethiopian Jews were flown to Israel. On 27 April 1994, El Al received its first Boeing 747-400.
El Al flights were inaugurated to the Far East and, in 1995, El Al signed its first codesharing agreement with American Airlines. In February 1995, the receivership under which the airline had technically been operating since 1982 came to an end. In June 1996, El Al recorded its first flight from Israel to Amman, Jordan.
In 1996, El Al recorded US$83.1 million in losses, due to the resumption of terrorist activities and the government's open skies policy. To keep its planes flying during this period, El Al introduced flights "to nowhere": passengers were offered various kinds of in-flight entertainment as the plane circled the Mediterranean. One-day shopping trips to London and visits to religious sites in eastern Europe were also promoted.
In 1997, El Al opened a separate cargo division. El Al's first Boeing 777 embarked on its maiden flight in March 2000. Later that year the controversy over flights on Shabbat erupted again, when the airline announced that it was losing US$55 million a year by grounding its planes on Saturdays. After privatization of the company began in June 2003, the policy regarding sabbath flights was expected to change.
In August 2010, El Al and American Airlines signed an agreement to provide connecting through tickets between Israel and 61 destinations in the United States from October 2010, via John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
The first phase of the long-delayed privatization of the company commenced in June 2003 and 15 percent of El Al's shares were listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. By June 2004, 50% of the company had been sold to the public. By January 2005, a controlling share of the company had been transferred to Knafaim-Arkia Holdings Ltd. As of March 2007, El Al's major shareholders are Knafaim Holdings (42%), the State of Israel (13%), and the Employee Union (8%).
Company affairs and identity 
El Al's headquarters are located on the grounds of Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv District, Israel, near Lod. William A. Orme, Jr. of The New York Times described the facility as "utilitarian" in 1999.
During 2005, the airline transported 3.5 million passengers, a rise from 3.2 million in 2004 and 2.8 million in 2003. 60% of the airline's passengers are Israeli. In 2006, El Al posted a $44.6 million dollar loss on revenues of $1.665 billion. The company is facing four lawsuits, two of which have been approved as class actions, which could cost the company $176.2 million. El Al spends $100 million a year to conform with the airline security measures required by Israel's Shin Bet security service. In early 2007, El Al opened a new King David Lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. New lounges at Heathrow airport in London and JFK International airport in New York had also opened in late 2007.
In 2007, El Al invested NIS 1 billion in the purchase of two new Boeing 777-200s that included an updated El Al decal. The aircraft are fitted with upgraded seats with adjustable headrests and legrests. Each seat is equipped with a touch-screen entertainment system. The first aircraft, named "Sderot", completed its maiden flight from New York to Tel Aviv on 26 July 2007. The second, "Kiryat Shmona", was delivered at the end of August 2007.
After the United States Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Israel's aviation safety rating to 2 in February 2009, an IATA member has warned El Al, as well as competing airlines Arkia and Israir, that they may appear on the European blacklist of banned carriers. Giora Romm, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel, responded to the claim, stating: "We are in close contact with the Europeans," He added, "I don't know what the fuss is about. The Europeans' e-mail is strange. We are doing everything we can to improve security." The European Union has yet to make an official statement on the matter. El Al uses the Amadeus CRS system for reservation, inventory, check-in and online bookings.
El Al has a cargo branch, El Al Cargo, which became independent in 1997. As the national cargo airline of Israel, it operates to destinations in Asia, Europe and North America plus ad hoc worldwide charters with its two Boeing 747-200F aircraft. Before 2001, when the Israeli air cargo market opened up to competition, El Al Cargo enjoyed a monopoly. Now its main competition comes from CAL Cargo Air Lines.
As of 2011, the company employs a staff of 6,056 globally and has a fleet of 37 aircraft. The company's revenues for 2011 grew by 4% from 2010 to $2.4 billion, totalling losses of $49.4 million compared to a profit of $57 million in 2010.
As a prime target for terrorism, El Al employs stringent security procedures, both on the ground and on board its aircraft. These effective, though sometimes controversial, procedures have won El Al's security reputation. In 2008, the airline was named by Global Traveler magazine as the world's most secure airline.
Airport security measures 
Passengers are asked to report three hours before departure. All El Al terminals around the world are closely monitored for security. There are plain-clothes agents and fully armed police or military personnel patrolling the premises for explosives, suspicious behavior, and other threats. Inside the terminal, passengers and their baggage are checked by a trained team. El Al security procedures require that all passengers be interviewed individually prior to boarding, allowing El Al staff to identify possible security threats. Passengers will be asked questions about where they are coming from, the reason for their trip, their job or occupation, and whether they have packed their bags themselves. The likelihood of potential terrorists remaining calm under such questioning is believed to be low (see microexpression).
At the check-in counter, passengers' passports and tickets are closely examined. A ticket without a sticker from the security checkers will not be accepted. At passport control passengers' names are checked against information from the FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Scotland Yard, Shin Bet, and Interpol databases. Luggage is screened and sometimes hand searched. In addition, bags are put through a decompression chamber simulating pressures during flight that could trigger explosives. El Al is the only airline in the world that passes all luggage through such a chamber. Even at overseas airports, El Al security agents conduct all luggage searches personally, even if they are supervised by government or private security firms.
Flight security measures 
Undercover agents (sometimes referred to as sky marshals) carrying concealed firearms sit among the passengers on every international El Al flight. Most El Al pilots are former Israeli Air Force pilots.[note 1] The cockpits in all El Al aircraft have double doors to prevent entry by unauthorized persons. A code is required to access the doors, and the second door will only be opened after the first has closed and the person has been identified by the captain or first officer. Furthermore, there are reinforced steel floors separating the passenger cabin from the baggage hold.
Following an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002, all aircraft in the fleet have been equipped with an infrared countermeasures system called Flight Guard, developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries to defend them against anti-aircraft missiles. Although comparable systems such as CAMPS are now available for civilian aircraft, there is no information to date about any other airlines deploying such a system. Switzerland and other European countries have expressed concern that flares dropped by the Israeli system could cause fires in the vicinity of an airport.
In April 2013, the Israeli government increased payments to El Al to secure 97.5% of the airlines' security costs, ahead of the Open Skies agreement to take effect in 2014 with the European Union.
Security controversy and passenger profiling 
The airline was also criticized by the Hungarian courts for refusing to search luggage with the passenger present, acting against Hungarian domestic laws stipulating that only authorized officials are able to undertake such searches. A civil case was brought to the Supreme Court of Israel on 19 March 2008 alleging that El Al's practice of ethnic profiling singles out Arabs for tougher treatment.
Other controversy 
The Israeli president Shimon Peres, last minute opted to change from El Al to Air Canada during a state visit, because El Al tried to charge the president a $5,000 excess baggage fee for an oxygen tank. According to protocol, an oxygen tank and other medical equipment is mandatory whenever an Israeli president or prime minister flies abroad.
El Al serves destinations on five continents with a well-developed European network that also takes in important cities in Russia, the Baltic region and CIS member states. The airline serves a number of gateway cities in North America and has expanded its service to cover central and southeast Asia (Bangkok, Mumbai) and the Far East (Beijing and Hong Kong). It also services to Johannesburg in Africa. For domestic flights, El Al operates to Eilat.
Airline partnerships 
El Al's historic, superseded livery featured a turquoise/navy blue stripe down the side of the aircraft, and a turquoise tailfin with the flag of Israel at the top. El Al's logo was featured above the front run of windows on each side of the plane in the turquoise/navy scheme. The new livery features a blue stripe with a thick silver border on the bottom that sweeps across the side of the aircraft near the wing, disappears over the top of the plane and reappears at the bottom of the tailfin. The El Al logo is part of the design, although it has been changed slightly since then.
In June 2012, El Al announced a plan to restructure its fleet with 15-20 new aircraft in the next ten years. On November 26, 2012, EL AL retired its last 757, after 25 years of service. It was also announced that the remaining 2 Boeing 767-200ER on the fleet will retire.
|2||0||0||189||189||Used by its subsidiary Sun d'Or International Airlines|
|Boeing 737-900ER||0||6||0||0||16||144||160||To replace 757-200 and 767-200ER; Delivery from 2013.|
|Boeing 767-200ER||2||0||0||0||24||167||191||Being Phased Out|
|El Al Cargo Fleet|
Previously operated 
|Bristol Type 175 Britannia||1960s||1960s|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-11||1998||2000|
Frequent flyer program 
Matmid is El Al's frequent flyer program. It was launched in 2004 following the merger of El Al's previous frequent flyer programs. It has five tiers: Matmid, Matmid Silver, Matmid Gold, Matmid Platinum and Matmid TOP Platinum. Points accumulated in the program entitle members to bonus tickets, flight upgrades, and discounts on car rentals, hotel stays, and other products and services. Points are also awarded for travel with partner airlines, as well as for nights at partner hotels and for credit card purchases. Matmid points can be collected on most flights operated by American Airlines and American Eagle, South African Airways, Sun D'Or, Qantas and limited Aeroméxico flights Points are accumulated for any fares (ex. promotions), and points age—i.e. lose their validity after three years.
The King David Lounge is the name adopted by El Al for special airport lounges that serve the airline's premium class passengers. There are six King David Lounges worldwide at the key airports at Ben Gurion International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, London Heathrow Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. All King David Lounges offer drinks, snacks, newspapers and magazines (Israeli and foreign), while some lounges also offer free Wi-Fi internet access. The King David Lounge at Terminal 3 at Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion airport is equipped with telephone, shower facilities and a spa; it has a separate section for first-class passengers.
Incidents and accidents 
||This article may contain excessive, poor, or irrelevant examples. (May 2011)|
- On 24 November 1951, a DC-4 on a cargo flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam crashed on approach to Zürich Airport, killing 6 crew members.
- On 27 July 1955, a Lockheed Constellation operating El Al Flight 402, was shot down by two Bulgarian Air Force fighter jets over Blagoevgrad, near Sofia, Bulgaria, after it strayed into Bulgarian airspace in rough weather. All 58 passengers and crew were killed.
- On 23 July 1968, El Al Flight 426 operated by a Boeing 707-358C en route from London to Tel Aviv via Rome, was hijacked by three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine shortly after take-off from Rome-Fiumicino airport and forcibly diverted to Algiers. The hijacking ended after 40 days and is considered to be the only successful hijacking involving an El Al jet.
- In February, 1969, an El Al Boeing 707 was attacked at Zürich airport. An Israeli trainee pilot was killed, with another eight people being wounded. In a firefight involving security personnel, one hijacker was killed, while the others were arrested. The hijackers were later put on trial in Winterthur, Switzerland but released following the hijacking of a Swissair aircraft one year later.
- On September 6, 1970, El Al Flight 219 from Tel Aviv to New York, with a stopover in Amsterdam, was the target of an attempted hijacking by Leila Khaled and Patrick Argüello after taking off from Amsterdam. The hijacking was meant to be one of the Dawson's Field hijackings, but it failed. 1 person was killed on this incident.
- On January 13, 1975, several men, including Carlos the Jackal, made an unsuccessful attempt to destroy an El Al airliner. The men tried again on January 17, also without success.
- On 27 December 1985, after several failed attempts to attack El Al aircraft, guerrillas of the Fatah Revolutionary Council attacked El Al ticket counters at Rome-Fiumicino and Vienna-Schwechat airports, killing 18 people.
- Another terrorist attack was foiled on 18 April 1986 in what became known as the Hindawi Affair. A pregnant Irishwoman named Anne-Marie Murphy was about to board an El Al flight at London's Heathrow airport when her bag was found to contain three pounds of plastic explosives. These had been planted by her fiancé Nezar Hindawi, who was booked on a different flight. Hindawi was jailed for 45 years, the longest sentence ever delivered by a British court. There was evidence that Syrian officials were involved and as a result, Britain cut off diplomatic relations with Syria.
- On 4 October 1992, El Al Flight 1862 operated by a Boeing 747-200F cargo plane, crashed into two highrise apartment buildings (Kruitberg and Groeneveen) in Bijlmermeer, a neighborhood of Amsterdam. The crash was caused by an engine detaching from the aircraft, knocking a second engine off the aircraft as well. The three crew members, one passenger, and 39 people on the ground were killed.
- On 4 July 2002, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot six Israelis at El Al's ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport before he was shot and killed by an El Al security guard. Two of the victims died. Although not linked to any terrorist group, Hadayet, an Egyptian, espoused anti-Israeli views and was opposed to US policy in the Middle East. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation classified the shooting as a terrorist act, one of the few on US soil since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
- On 17 November 2002, Tawfiq Fukra, a twenty-three-year-old Israeli Arab, attempted to hijack an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul. He was reportedly armed with a pocket knife, and attempted to break into the cockpit in order to fly the aircraft back to Israel and crash it into a building. He was apprehended by on-board security personnel. Fukra has denied the charges.
- On 9 August 2012, airfares for flights to New York were erroneously listed at a steep discount (at $400 from the usual $1,600 price), with at least 5,000 tickets sold. A contractor responsible for posting the fares was believed responsible. The airline honored the tickets anyway.
See also 
- Most, but not all, El Al's pilots are former pilots of the Israeli Air Force. An article dedicated to an El Al female captain can be found at With Yom Haatzmaut Festivities, a Gender Barrier Is Broken – The Sisterhood – Forward.com
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