El Al will commence non-stop flights from Tel Aviv to Melbourne in the second quarter of 2020, the national carrier announced on Wednesday.
The flights, pending regulatory approval, will be operated on the airline’s new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
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, El Al said. Passengers currently seeking to travel between Israel and Australia are required to stop over en route to their final destination.
“Australia welcomes El Al’s announcement that it plans to trial direct flights from Tel Aviv to Melbourne,” Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan told The Jerusalem Post.
“This is a great opportunity for more Australians and Israelis to explore each other’s beautiful countries. Direct flights would also be a game changer for increasing our trade, investment and innovation links.”
In October, a Qantas Dreamliner made aviation history for the longest nonstop commercial passenger flight when it flew for 19 hours and 16 minutes from New York’s JFK Airport to Sydney Airport.
In addition to Melbourne, El Al is planning to launch new routes to Chicago, Tokyo, Dublin and Dusseldorf in 2020. The carrier launched non-direct flights to Nice, San Francisco, Manchester and Las Vegas this year.
“Direct flights are game changers in bilateral relationships,” Ambassador to Australia Mark Sofer wrote on Twitter. “They greatly enhance trade and tourism and, in general, bring peoples closer to one another. Here’s hoping that the project ‘takes off.’”
The launch of the Tel Aviv-Melbourne route coincided with the publication of El Al’s third quarter financial results, which showed net profits of $27 million – a reduction of $15m. compared to the third quarter of 2018. During the last quarter, the airline reported an increase of 6.5% in passenger traffic and an increase of 2% in market share.
Since the start of the year, the airline has lost approximately $28m., compared to a loss of approximately $21m. in the first nine months of 2018.
El Al has also reached an agreement to expand its fleet, the airline said, leasing three Boeing 737 Next Generation jets for the next six years. The first plane is expected to arrive next month, and the final two are due to enter service in April 2020.
The airline has also welcomed 12 of a total of 16 Dreamliners, renewing its long-haul fleet at a cost exceeding $1.25 billion. The remaining four aircraft are expected to arrive by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
“Notwithstanding the competition at Ben-Gurion Airport, the company succeeded to increase and improve its market share by 2%, with the number of passengers increasing by 6.5%,” said El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin.
“Our aircraft fleet has become younger, and, for the first time, the aircraft average age falls below 10 years. Our product improves, and we witness constant increase in our customers’ satisfaction.”
The entry of the Dreamliner fleet has gradually replaced El Al’s famous jumbo jet fleet, which was retired from service after 48 years of operations earlier this month.