Israel’s El Al is flying to Lima tonight to rescue around 1,000 stranded Israelis. It will be a marathon effort involving four Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and 16 hour plus flight times, making them the longest flights ever flown by El Al.
AeroNews is reporting the story. The report says there will be four departures from Tel Aviv tonight. The aircraft will touch down in Lima tomorrow before heading back to Israel mid-afternoon.
Israelis blocked from leaving Cusco
But all is not going smoothly. The Jerusalem Post is saying that some 600 of the young Israelis are being stopped from leaving Cusco. The newspaper reports that the city and its airport is closed and no-one is allowed to leave.
Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, is swinging into action and is in touch with his Peruvian counterpart to facilitate the backpackers getting from Cusco to Lima. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has urged its citizens to leave Latin America, having said;
“As a result of the steps Latin American countries are taking to combat the corona epidemic, the transportation options, particularly outbound flights, are shrinking.”
The stranded Israelis are fresh out of the army. A backpacking holiday after leaving the army is a popular option for many Israelis and South America is a favorite destination. The rescue flights are free and came about after Peru closed its borders and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, got involved. The Foreign Ministry approached El Al about the flights after the stranded travelers made several calls for help.
El Al doesn’t fly to Peru and these rescue flights, whilst within the capabilities of the 787-9, push new boundaries for the airline. El Al’s CEO Gonen Usishkin said;
“In times of crisis or emergency, EL AL does its utmost to offer rescue services and assistance.”
Flight within range of 787-9 capabilities
El Al has a fleet of 15 Boeing 787s, comprising three 787-8s and twelve 787-9s. AeroNews identifies three of the Dreamliners heading to Lima as 4X-EDL, 4X-EDJ, and 4X-EDI. All three are 787-9s. The fourth aircraft heading to Lima is not yet known.
The Boeing 787-9 has a range of 13,700 kilometers. That’s about 1,000 kilometers more than it needs to get to Lima. The El Al 787-9 seats 271 passengers. The airline hasn’t said who gets first dibs on the seats up the front. Still, if you are that keen to get home, you wouldn’t care where you were sitting.
4X-EDL has sat on the ground at Tel Aviv since it landed on Monday, having come in from Newark. 4X-EDJ is already on the way to Lima according to FlightAware. It appears to be operating via Spain. 4X-EDI is listed on FlightAware as scheduled to fly to Lima (also via Spain) but has not yet departed.
While the London detour isn’t part of the narrative for the marathon rescue flights, the prevailing headwinds when flying west may mean the Dreamliners are pushing the limits of their safe operating range. A refuel in Spain was therefore advisable. Generally, aircraft have an easier time of it flying east and it’s these return flights that might be nonstop, giving El Al something to crow about.
Simple Flying has reached out to El Al to clarify this but have not received a response as yet. The article will be updated once comment is received.