El Al has announced plans to launch pilot flights between Tel Aviv and Melbourne next year.
Exact details have yet to be confirmed about the pilot service, but the Israeli carrier said that the nonstop flights would launch in the second quarter of 2020, using Dreamliner aircraft.
Releasing its third quarter financial report, El Al said that “the Company announces its intention to operate nonstop pilot flights to Australia, to explore the feasibility of launching regular flights to Melbourne”.
The pilot service is subject to regulatory approval, and the carrier said it would publish details regarding the operation of the flights separately.
A report by flightglobal.com said that “complexity beckons” with the proposed service, due to the route which aircraft would have to take to reach Melbourne and back.
According to the report “The distance to Melbourne from its Tel Aviv base is some 7,400nm but this great-circle route is unlikely to be available to the Israeli operator as it would pass through Saudi Arabian airspace”.
“El Al is not permitted to cross Saudi Arabia, a restriction highlighted last year after Air India started operating Tel Aviv services without such a limitation,” the report added.
El Al currently has 12 B787-9s in service, with four B787-8s due to be delivered between now and the first quarter of 2020.
The Dreamliners are gradually replacing older aircraft in the El Al fleet, including the carrier’s B747 jumbos, the last of which made its final trip to New York in September after 48 years of B747 service on the route.
The Dreamliner aircraft feature a full-flat Recaro seat in business class, as well as a premium economy cabin with 38 inches of legroom.
In an interview with Business Traveller earlier this year, El Al’s CEO Gonen Usishkin said that the premium economy seat had proved so popular that the carrier was considering adding an extra row of the seats to its Dreamliner aircraft.
“Premium is the new kid in town,” Usishkin said. “I feel that trend will continue for the foreseeable future with only minor tweaks.”