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Israel’s El Al will begin Tel Aviv to Tokyo flights in March

Chris Hoare/Wikimedia
Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, where El Al has its main base
  • Israel’s flag carrier unveils new direct route to Japan
  • Launch was delayed for two years because of COVID pandemic

El Al Israel Airlines will start direct flights from Tel Aviv to Tokyo next March, it said on Monday – two years after the launch was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Israel’s flag carrier has been looking to expand eastbound flights since its second-quarter results showed a rebound from the slump in travel during the pandemic.

The plan was buoyed by Saudi Arabia’s announcement, during the visit by President Joe Biden in July, that it would allow overhead flights by all foreign carriers. That will reduce flight times for Israeli planes headed to Asia.

When that corridor, which would include neighbouring Oman, will be opened remains unclear. Israel does not have bilateral ties with either Arab country and previous Saudi overflight permission for its jets has required US mediation.

“I really don’t have an answer on this,” Israeli Transport Minister Merav Michaeli told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM on Friday when asked about the timing for implementation of Riyadh’s decision.

“The diplomatic issue is, unfortunately, still out of my hands.”

To meet demand on long-haul routes, El Al said it planned to add a 16th Boeing 787 in 2023. The new twice-weekly flights to Japan’s capital will be aboard these aircraft.