EL Al’s announcement that it will trial direct flights from Tel Aviv to Melbourne next year has been hailed as a “game changer” for Israel-Australia relations.
The news sent waves of excitement through the community when El Al revealed it will be the first airline in history to fly non-stop from Ben Gurion Airport to Australia, and vice versa.
The flights will be operated on the airline’s new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and will commence in early April.
The journey from Tel Aviv to Melbourne will take approximately 16 hours and 45 minutes, and the return flight to Tel Aviv is expected to take 17 hours and 45 minutes.
Stating, “This is an exciting and important announcement,” Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin told The AJN the arrangement will “make it easier for Australians to experience the singular beauty of Israel, and will serve to deepen bilateral relations to the mutual benefits of both peoples”.
“An incredible amount of work goes into achieving such an outcome so we must commend our ambassador in Israel, Chris Cannan, the Israeli ambassador Mark Sofer and also Dave Sharma MP who worked tirelessly to achieve this marvellous outcome during his posting,” Ryvchin said.
Speaking to The AJN, Sharma said he had been campaigning for direct flights since 2015 when he was Australia’s ambassador to Israel, pushing the idea with Qantas and El Al and “urging both governments to support it”.
“I could tell the campaign was really catching fire when PM Netanyahu and PM Turnbull discussed it during Netanyahu’s visit to Australia in 2017,” Sharma told The AJN.
“Once the new generation of longer-range aircraft came into service, and Qantas began flying Perth to London non-stop, it became physically feasible.
“I thought it could stack up on a commercial basis too. And for the relationship between Israel and Australia, direct flights would be a game changer.”
He added, “I’m thrilled at the vision and leadership shown by El Al in piloting this route, and I hope it shows how feasible it would be.”
Cannan said direct flights “would be a game changer for tourism and, along with our soon to be ratified tax treaty, a real boon for trade and investment”.
Echoing the sentiment, Sofer said direct flights are a turning point in bilateral relationships.
“They greatly enhance trade and tourism and in general bring peoples closer to one another. Here’s hoping that the project ‘takes off’.”