Route Analysis: El Al Schedules Tokyo Launch

The Israeli airline hopes to begin an inaugural route from Tel Aviv to the Japanese capital in March having twice previously postponed plans to enter the market.

Credit: Taras Vyshnya / Alamy Stock Photo

Japan’s capital Tokyo is set to become a new point on El Al Israel Airlines’ network map from next March when the carrier begins its first flights to the city. The airline has scheduled the launch of service between Tel Aviv Ben Gurion (TLV) and Tokyo Narita (NRT), operating twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The inaugural flight is slated for March 1, 2023, using Boeing 787-8 aircraft. El Al currently has a fleet of three 787-8s and 12 787-9s, and intends to take delivery of a further 787-8 next year to facilitate the Japanese expansion.

The carrier has twice planned to launch flights between Tel Aviv and Tokyo, but each attempt has been thwarted by the COVID-19 crisis. An initial launch date of March 2020 was postponed as the aviation industry ground to a halt, while a second try in March 2022 was also abandoned following the omicron outbreak and subsequent travel restrictions imposed by Japanese authorities.

If El Al’s third effort is a success, the airline will become the sole operator of nonstop flights between Israel and Japan, while Tokyo will become the carrier’s fourth destination in the Asia-Pacific region. It already serves Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Phuket (HKT) in Thailand, with Hong Kong (HKG) scheduled to resume in February.

El Al’s plans to expand its route network in Asia were buoyed in July when Saudi Arabia announced it would open its airspace to all air carriers, paving the way for overflights to and from Israel. Previously the Israeli flag carrier was not able to enter Saudi airspace and was forced to bypass the Arabian Peninsula to reach the likes of India, Thailand and Australia.

Riyadh’s decision is therefore expected to shorten flight times on existing El Al routes, as well as increasing the carrier’s competitiveness with other Middle East airlines and paving the way for the launch of new destinations. Melbourne (MEL) in Australia is among the new points on the agenda.

Israeli officials are now hoping that the opening of Saudi airspace will be followed by a similar move from Oman. Unless Omani airspace is also opened to Israeli carriers, El Al will be unable to use the Saudi-Oman corridor for routes to Asia—and therefore be unable to take advantage of the shortened journey times.

TLV-NRT

Carrier:

El Al Israel Airlines

Aircraft:

Boeing 787-8

Frequency:

2X-weekly

Start date:

March 1, 2023

Distance:

9,202-km (4,969-nm)

O&D traffic demand (2019):

84,517

Annual growth:

20.3%

Average base fare (2019):

$599.99

 

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