Israel’s Flag Carrier: El Al’s Fleet In 2021

With its small-medium-sized fleet of just 45 aircraft, El Al and its operations are greatly overshadowed by fellow carriers in the region such as Turkish Airlines and even Egyptair. However, this carrier still manages to provide a full-service experience for both its short-haul and long-haul operations with narrowbody and widebody jets. Let’s take a look at the airline’s current fleet composition.

El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner 4X-EDC
The airline’s flagship aircraft is the Boeing 787. El Al has 15 of these with an average age of under three years. It operates both variants of the Dreamliner. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

El Al’s fleet at a glance

First, we’ll take a look at the composition of the airline’s fleet as a whole. The aircraft types are listed below with quantities in parentheses:

  • 737-800 (16)
  • 737-900ER (8)
  • 777-200 (6)
  • 787-8 Dreamliner (3)
  • 787-9 Dreamliner (12)

In case it wasn’t already glaringly apparent, El Al operates an all-Boeing fleet. While the airline hasn’t explicitly stated why it has decided to stick with one planemaker, it’s possible that it has done so in order to achieve operational efficiencies through increased commonality in terms of training and maintenance.

Another possibility is the geopolitics at play, taking into consideration the close relationship the United States and Israel have had over the decades and the fact that El Al was state-owned up until the early 2000s. Indeed the majority of the Israeli Air Force consists of American-made aircraft as well.

ElAl 777
All six of El Al’s Boeing 777s are currently parked. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons 

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Short and medium-range operations

For its operations in the region and to Europe, El Al typically deploys its Boeing 737s. Its fleet of 737-800s and 737-900ERs fly as far west as London, Lisbon, and Marrakesh.

Collectively, across the two types, the average age of these aircraft is 13 and a half years. However, El Al’s 737-800s are much older, with an average age of 17 years. The -900ERs are quite a bit younger at 6.7 years of age.

The 737-800s appear to have two different configurations:

  • 16 business, 138 economy
  • 36 premium economy, 144 economy

Meanwhile, the -900ERs are configured with 16 business class seats and 156 in economy.

One -800 appears to be operating under El Al subsidiary brand Sun d’Or International Airlines. This jet is configured with an all-economy layout with 185 seats.

ElAl 737
El Al operates both the 737-800 and the 737-900ER. Photo: Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons 

El Al’s 787s

El Al struck a deal with Boeing in 2015 to buy or lease 15 Dreamliners. Becoming the carrier’s biggest order ever, it was valued at some $1.25 billion at list prices. The airline has since increased its Dreamliner numbers and has an additional jet on the way. However, the delivery of this single 787-8 has been delayed repeatedly.

In late November 2020, El Al agreed with Boeing to delay the delivery of its final Boeing 787-8 for a second time. Extended to March 2021, the jet remains undelivered, with FlightGlobal reporting in August that the jet remains “postponed” until December, under an agreement with Boeing.

FlightGlobal adds that El Al says it’s negotiating with a financial institution to secure a $31 million advance payment for the aircraft. The airline also says that it “continues to explore” long-term financing alternatives.

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