Israel Yanks Operating License of El Al Subsidiary Sun D’Or

Israel’s Constitution defines the nation as a “Jewish and Democratic State,” as such the formerly state owned national airline, El Al Israel Airlines, does not fly on The Sabbath.

To get around Sabbath travel restrictions and service certain European destinations, Sun d’Or was established on the 1st of October 1977 (originally as El Al Charter Services), however the separation of El Al and its subsidiary Sun d’Or have become muddied. The growing intertwining of the two airlines has caused the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority to revoke the operating license of Sun d’Or.

The revocation of the Sun d’Or operating license follows complaints from multiple European aviation authorities that Sun d’Or was not acting an airline independent of El Al.  These complaints include Sun d’Or flights operating with not only El Al aircraft, but with El Al crew as well.

Ultimately the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority cited a lack of compliance with Israeli management standard, as well as the lack of self owned aircraft and crew for the reasons they have chosen to revoke the Sun d’Or operating license.   The airline’s operating license will be revoked effective April 1 2011.

El Al is now faced with a tough decision. The airline must choose to either give up a large portion of its market share to competing airlines by choosing to not fly on the Sabbath, or they must choose to fly under their own name on the Sabbath and risk angering a highly influential segment of their home market passengers.

El Al is in a tough position and time is running out on the choices they have to make.

Happy Flying!


  1. Fish,

    Israel does not have a constitution. The link in your article is to a website trying to advocate for the a written constitution, and it seems to have been last updated in 2004, with absurd claims that a draft constitution would be ready in 2005; that didn’t happen, nor is it likely to ever happen without a huge change in the political climate in Israel.

    Regarding the Sabbath flights, the matter seems to be more about aircraft utilization than market share. Demand in Israel is severely depressed on the Sabbath, due to the large number of Sabbath-observant flyers to and from the country, compounded by the fact that Saturday is a low-demand day worldwide (at least for business travelers). Foreign airlines which fly to Israel on a less than daily schedule typically choose Saturday as a day to not fly — it appears that the premium they could extract from having no competition is lower than the penalty they would incur from the low demand. For high-yield business destinations, El-Al has always tried to squeeze the would-be Sabbath frequencies into Friday morning or Saturday night after sundown, even going as far as establishing a Friday-only flight from Stansted when they couldn’t move their afternoon Heathrow slot to the morning on Fridays (they have since moved to Luton and increased the frequency). Sun D’Or flights were typically low-yield flights to leisure destinations intended to squeeze a few bucks from planes that would otherwise be idle, the same rationale as Delta’s Saturday flight from Detroit to Montego Bay (and dozens like it).

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