News: Israeli airline to fly on Sabbath

Israel's national airline may soon be able to fly on the Sabbath, freeing it to increase services to and from Britain and to cut its costs dramatically. In 1982 the Israeli government ordered El Al to ground its planes between sunset on a Friday and sunset the following Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath). No aircraft are allowed to take off, land or be airborne.

Israel's national airline may soon be able to fly on the Sabbath, freeing it to increase services to and from Britain and to cut its costs dramatically. In 1982 the Israeli government ordered El Al to ground its planes between sunset on a Friday and sunset the following Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath). No aircraft are allowed to take off, land or be airborne.

The ban was imposed to satisfy Israel's ultra-Orthodox political parties and secure their support on other matters. But in an industry where efficient use of aircraft and crews is essential, it has crippled El Al's ability to compete effectively.

It also makes life complicated for travellers. For example, the Friday morning flight from Tel Aviv to Stansted departs at 5am, in order for the aircraft to be back in Israel by 4.25pm, allowing some leeway in case of delays before sunset on Friday. This pattern is repeated across the airline's network. Analysts have estimated that the ban on Sabbath flights costs El Al between £20m and £50m each year.

El Al was established in the same year that Israel gained independence, 1948, with the Israeli government holding an 80 per cent share. But the airline is on the verge of being privatised. Knafaim-Arkia Holdings, the parent company of El Al's main Israeli competitor, Arkia, is to become the majority shareholder of the airline.

With El Al in private hands, the airline will no longer be bound by the prohibition. A spokesman for El Al said that no decisions had yet been made to reintroduce Sabbath flights. But if the new owners decide to remove the restriction, British travellers could benefit with increased flights and lower fares. El Al currently flies from Heathrow and Stansted to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, with winter services to Eilat on Israel's Red Sea coast.

El Al: 020-7957 4100; www.elal.co.il

* The Foreign Office has stopped short of warning against holiday travel to Israel, but its advice for visitors to the main tourist destination, Jerusalem, is strongly worded: "There have been frequent major terrorist attacks in a variety of locations around the city. These incidents have also been in areas frequented by tourists. Foreign nationals have not been targeted, but many have been killed and injured."

The Foreign Office advises travellers "to maintain a high level of vigilance when travelling anywhere in Jerusalem". It also warns visitors to "take extra care at crossing points between Israel and Jordan".

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there