Extending a string of international-destination wins for Boston’s Logan International Airport, El Al Israel Airlines announced Monday it will begin direct flights between Logan and Tel Aviv this coming June 28.
"This will help create a lot of jobs for Massachusetts," predicted New England Patriots owner and Kraft Group CEO Robert K. Kraft, who helped Gov. Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Port Authority persuade El Al to add the direct Boston service.
El Al CEO David Maimon said the airline plans to start service with three weekly round-trips. "We hope we will be as soon as possible five flights a week" after that, Maimon said. Service will be on Boeing 767-300s with 22 lie-flat business class seats, 28 premium seats, and 168 economy seats, totaling 654 seats per week at first each way between Boston and Tel Aviv.
Patrick staged a huge trade mission to Israel three years ago and said today there are 7,000 people working in Massachusetts for Israeli-founded companies. Turning to Maimon at a press conference outside his State House office, Patrick said, "I promise you this is going to be a successful route. The appetite for it runs deep."
Alex Goldstein of Northwind Strategies, a business development and government relations expert who served as Patrick’s spokesman during the Israel trade mission -– and is also a top organizer of an international Jewish rugby league -- predicted demand for the nonstop will be strong and El Al should face no problem consistently filling enough of the 654 weekly seats to justify making the route permanent. "It’s a huge opportunity, and it’s a huge opportunity for lots of populations," Goldstein said. "You have a huge Jewish community here, you have over 200 Israeli-founded companies here in Massachusetts, and you have any number of businesses and business people who do business with Israel."
Besides demand from travelers in and around Boston, El Al also is finalizing a code-share arrangement with JetBlue Airways, which is Logan’s biggest carrier with 130 daily flights, expected to grow to 160 later this year. Massport CEO Thomas P. Glynn and aviation director Edward Freni said they expect that passengers connecting to and from JetBlue through Logan on a single ticket will play a significant role in filling the El Al flights between Boston and Tel Aviv.
Massport is also in the process of spending millions of dollars to create a connection between JetBlue’s Terminal C and Terminal E, the international terminal where El Al will operate, that can enable passengers to connect directly between the two without going outside or back through security. Freni said the connection is expected to open next summer, right about the time the new El Al flights begin.
During Patrick’s nearly eight years in office, Logan has gained more than a dozen new international nonstop destinations, including Beijing, Dubai, Istanbul, Panama, and Tokyo. One indication of what a coup it is for El Al to pick Boston is that it will be only its fifth North American non-stop destination, after New York’s John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International Airport, Los Angeles International, and Pearson International in Toronto.
In the case of direct service to Israel, however, Kraft said for many people the attraction will go far beyond just saving several hours on connecting flights.
"The Holy Land is such a special place that now knowing that people who live in the New England area, whether they be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, that they have a way to go direct to Israel and experience that country," Kraft said, "I think will be a great enhancement to their lives."
With videographer Daniel J. Ferrigan