Australians have plenty of choices these days when it comes to a journey to the Middle East and beyond. A plethora of direct services exist. Or one can choose to break up the journey by travelling via Asia. This week’s trip report is one that does exactly that. However, it involves travel with an airline that some consider a little different. Part of the journey will be on an airline that only flies six days a week. Yes, our member will be flying El Al, the national airline of Israel.

Myself and a few other family members spent 3 weeks back in June/July travelling around Israel with a brief excursion into Jordan to see Petra and Wadi Rum. As I have a preference for Qantas and my father was keen to fly with El Al, we came to a compromise and flew the following: Sydney-Bangkok (QF23) -> Bangkok-Tel Aviv (LY082) and Tel Aviv-Hong Kong (LY075) -> Hong Kong-Sydney (QF128)

So why fly with El Al? El Al is a Qantas Frequent Flyer partner, but often that is not the main reason travellers choose to fly with them. El Al’s experience over many years of hostility and threats against the airline has seen them emerge with a significant reputation as one of the safest airlines in the world to fly with. On arrival into Bangkok after an uneventful Qantas flight, the difference flying El Al soon became evident in this trip report. Any other airline would be happy with the security in place at most airports on the ground, not El Al, preferring to do its own checks, just to be sure.

We went into Bangkok for a few hours (we had a 6hr layover) and then returned to a mostly empty airport. We sat around for a while watching El Al’s security detail check the departure gate and then eventually boarded the 747-400 (LY082) which would take us to Tel Aviv. The aircraft itself was quite old and the service, food and entertainment was lacking.

While departure lounge sweeps are an obvious security measure, others are not so obvious to the traveller. Each aircraft in their fleet is fitted with two security doors for access to the cockpit. Most of the world’s airlines just have the single door. On entry via the first door, the occupant must then be verified personally via camera by one of the cockpit crew before entrance is granted to the cockpit. Such heavy customisation reduces the resale value of the aircraft, so they tend to stay in the fleet for a longer time than normal. Thanks to Israel’s frosty relationship with quite a few countries, there are also differences outside the aircraft that can impact El Al’s flights.

Interestingly, El Al aren’t allowed to fly over most Arab countries so we take quite an indirect route up the Red Sea.

Visiting a country that has considerable long term issues with its neighbours will always make for an interesting read. Throw in an inflight emergency and you have a trip report that should not be missed. For an experience with a difference, head over to this weeks trip report HERE.

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