Inside The World Of Religious Airlines

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At some point in 2020, the world’s first Christian airline, Judah 1, will officially take flight. The Texas-based airline is vocal in its aims to spread Christian principles through mission trips. Whilst it may be the first Christian airline, there are other airlines conducting operations under a faith-based doctrine. Here’s how they work.

El Al aircraft
How do religious airlines work? Photo: Getty Images

What are religious airlines?

As the phrase suggests, religious airlines are those which operate with an inclination to a particular faith. Be they of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other religious persuasion, these airlines offer additional faith-based elements to their service.

Although these airlines observe facets of a particular religion, there are differences in how they apply them. Some airlines are more strict whilst others still only accept passengers of a particular faith.

So, who are these religious airlines?

Which religious airlines exist?

When it comes to religious airlines, there are few carriers who are exclusive in their operations. As a result, the likes of Judah 1 are unique in offering trips for Christian missionaries. However, there are other airlines that uphold values from a particular faith. For example, El Al is the national Israeli airline that offers only Kosher in-flight meals and still observes the sanctity of the Shabbat. El Al gears its operations towards Jewish passengers.

In a similar vein, an airline was founded five years ago which catered to the Islamic faith. Rayani Air was in operation for less than one year. It did not serve alcoholic drinks or pork and, what’s more, there was a prayer recital before take off.

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Saudia aircraft
Saudia also respects Islamic dietary requirements. Photo: Glenn Beltz via Flickr

In fact, there are a few airlines that still exist today which uphold similar values. Saudia also adheres to Islamic dietary requirements as does Royal Brunei Airlines. Iran Air takes its Islamic belief system one step further and requires female passengers to stick to the Islamic dress code at least on domestic flights. Female passengers must fully cover their bodies and wear a hijab.

Where does faith come into it?

Despite the fact that faith-based airlines observe traditions of a particular faith, oftentimes their mission can be a lot more varied. Their religious beliefs extend past in-flight service.

For example, on 10th January 2020, an El Al Israel Airlines flight was diverted from its destination due to smoke in the cabin. Whilst the issue did not cause any casualties, there was a slight hiccup in the sense that the airline observes the regulations of the Shabbat. As a result, the diversion meant that the flight was unable to take off otherwise it would have been in breach of Jewish law. Thankfully, El Al was able to garner the support of certain Jewish Chabad organizations who provided humanitarian aid to those stranded.

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However, El Al has not only profited from its faith association. It has also provided humanitarian relief to those in need. Most notably, the airline was instrumental in Operation Solomon back in 1991 where it airlifted over 1,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Likewise, Judah 1 makes its mission-based trips the forefront of its entire campaign. The airline’s website says:

“Judah 1 Inc is an aviation ministry dedicated to fulfilling “The Great Commission”. We serve missions minded Christian people of all denominations traveling to the mission fields of the world…It is our passion to help you reach the estimated two and a half billion people who do not know Jesus and it only takes YOUR HANDS, GOD’S LOVE, OUR WINGS.”

Judah 1 aircraft
Judah 1 will only serve Christian missionaries. Photo: Judah 1

The airline quite literally acts as the hands and feet of God. But of course, not all religious airlines are so active in their faith in this way. Many simply observe traditions but are empathetic towards passengers who do not share the same views.

Should there be religious airlines?

In terms of whether religious airlines are right or wrong is totally down to individual perception. In a nutshell, respect towards others should always be a founding principle in every airline whether religious or not.

That said, some of these airlines have earned negative backlash as a result of their beliefs. Whilst airlines can control the belief system they use, they have less control over how their passengers behave. Extreme religious views can mean that some passengers have refused to sit with other passengers who supposedly go against their religious convictions.

For the most part, the majority of airlines do not practice exclusion based on religious principles but by offering an in-flight service tailored to a particular religion, they give passengers options. Essentially they fill a niche for those looking for more meaningful and fulfilling flight experience.

Have you flown on a faith-based airline? Do you think there should be more faith-based airlines? Let us know in the comments below.

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