El Al May Not Break Shabbat - but Its Pilots and Planes Do

Arrangement between El Al and Israir came to light during an emergency stopover in Cyprus.

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Despite the criticism in the airline industry and the competition between El Al and Israir Airlines, the two companies are cooperating, and not only when it comes to flights within Israel. This cooperation was exposed last Saturday in the wake of a flight-safety incident when a company aircraft had to make an emergency landing in Cyprus. At the end of the incident, it turned out that the flight had been carried out by El Al in the service of Israir.

There were 186 passengers aboard the Boeing 737 that took off from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Berlin. During the flight, a malfunctioning indicator in the hydraulic system was discovered and the aircraft made an emergency landing in Larnaca, where the passengers waited until repairs were completed.

El Al officials confirmed to TheMarker that El Al did not fly on Saturdays and holidays. Formally, the flight belonged to Israir - but it used an aircraft and crew that belonged to El Al.

This sort of arrangement is known as a wet lease: one airline leases an aircraft, complete crew, maintenance and insurance to another.

Such arrangements are conventional in the airline industry. Israir officials confirmed the details of the incident and said that while the flight had an Israir code name, the aircraft and flight crew belonged to El Al.

El Al and Israir also cooperate in the field of flights within Israel despite criticism in the flight industry. In addition, starting on April 21, 2013, El Al will be increasing the number of its weekly flights to Eilat from 17 to 21. The additional flights will be operated by Israir even though the two companies are supposed to be competitors. This deal also takes the form of a wet-lease arrangement in which El Al leases the ATR-42 aircraft and flight crew to Israir in exchange for payment.

An El Al plane on the move. Not on Shabbat.Credit: Sivan Faraj

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