El Al has announced its intention of testing the possibility of operating direct, non-stop flights between Tel Aviv and Melbourne. The idea is certainly an interesting one. Whether or not it becomes a reality will depend upon the outcome of a trial that El Al plans to carry out in the second quarter of 2020. Passengers will be able to buy tickets for the trial flights.
The route needs to be tested, first of all because it involves flights lasting up to eighteen hours, about three hours longer than the longest flight that El Al currently operates, on the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles route. The precise flight times are sixteen hours and forty-five minutes for the outbound flight, and seventeen hours and forty-five minutes for the return flight to Israel.
Secondly, beyond the ability of passengers to tolerate such a long direct flight, El Al will have to examine the economic viability of the service, the costs of which will include a double aircrew, and having an aircraft unused on the ground for several days between flights. Above all will be the price test. El Al will operate its Dreamliner aircraft on the test flights. These aircraft are capable of flying nineteen hours continuously.
Flying between Israel and Australia currently necessitates catching a connecting flight, usually in the Far East. Many passengers even prefer taking a break on the long trip, but, globally, the trend of longer, direct flights is gathering momentum. Qantas recently made two trial flights on the longest route in the world, lasting nineteen hours, between Sydney and New York, on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner planes. If El Al does launch a regular Tel Aviv-Melbourne service, it will be among the world's longest routes.
Talking to "Globes", El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said that the intention was to operate two flights ten days apart. "We will only be able to see whether the trial will lead to us opening the route on the basis of performance. We're talking about a very long flight, and we'll have to examine various aspects of it, including fuel consumption, and the behaviour and physical health of passengers and crew.
"It will be the passengers who decide whether they're happy to fly eighteen hours and pay the cost. That is what will determine whether we continue. It's an expensive flight from an operational point of view. If the consumer sees added value in it and agrees to pay the premium, which I don't believe will be excessively high, and particularly if he or she agrees to sit on a flight for eighteen hours, we'll be able to decide whether to operate the route."