El Al – The Pride Of Israel In The Sky
El Al – The Pride Of Israel In The Sky
One of the most controversial airlines in the sky, El Al has managed to survive a lot during its history. If we take a look at any other airline in the world, no other airline had to go through that much. And if they did, the airline‘s history has a dot that closes down the whole story.
But El Al has persisted and managed to not only survive but thrive in the modern world. It is also regarded as one of the safest airlines in the world, as the security measures it takes to protect its passengers are next level. And that is putting it lightly.
The story of El Al is pretty complex, as is the story of Israel. But let us put politics aside and dive deeper into the history of Israel‘s national flag carrier.
The roots of the airline can be traced back to 1948, when the current Israeli president at the time, Haim Weizmann, flew from Geneva back to Israel. As Switzerland disallowed military aircraft in landing in its territory, the Israelis converted a Douglas C-54 Skymaster into a civilian aircraft and completed its first flight. El Al successfully brought the president back home.
Even before starting their first flights, El Al participated in an operation called Magic Carpet. It helped lift over 49,000 Yemenite Jews from Yemen. A trend that will continue throughout El Al’s history – these types of operations will become the norm. An El Al Bristol Britannia Over Tel Aviv
A year after the first flight, the airline eventually commenced commercial operations in 1949, opening up a route Tel Aviv – Rome – Paris. At the end of 1949, El Al added two more routes – to Johannesburg and London. Slowly but surely, the airline expanded its services throughout Europe, with added routes to other European capitals, namely Vienna, Istanbul and Athens.
I would like to briefly mention that the company established a cargo division as well – named El Al Cargo, which handed cargo that was exported/imported from or to Israel.
Anyhow, El Al kept growing and scheduled its first flights to the United States. Amidst all the expansion commercially, the airline managed to airlift more Jews from Arab countries. Namely, Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, where El Al contributed to the return of over 160.000 Jews to Israel.
As the 1950s ended, the airline expanded its network in Europe, specifically to West Germany. It also introduced one of kind services at the time – in-flight phone calls. The phone calls were also available while flying the ocean. El Al ad to advertise its routes to the United States
More El Al dots on the Map
The airline has managed to become profitable in 1960 – the first time since it was founded. As the airline renewed its fleet and introduced the first jet engine aircraft, namely, Boeing 707 and the Boeing 720.
With the new jets, El Al achieved a record-breaking flight. Their non-stop scheduled flight between Tel Aviv and New York covered 9270 kilometers in 9 hours and 33 minutes.
But then the first troubles began, as politics finally caught up with the airline. In 1968 a plane was hijacked (El Al flight 426), but fortunately no one was hurt. After a few more hijacking and bombing incidents at airports and company offices, everything came to a close in 1970 – when terrorists attempted to hijack a Boeing 707. The only fatality during the whole ordeal was a hijacker.
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