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After nine-year hiatus, non-stop flights from Miami to Israel are back with El Al

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa hands El Al president CEO David Maimon a proclamation to make Nov. 1m 2017 El Al Day in Miami-Dade County.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa hands El Al president CEO David Maimon a proclamation to make Nov. 1m 2017 El Al Day in Miami-Dade County. Miami International Airport

Israeli airline El Al’s nine-year Miami hiatus is over.

El Al launched non-stop service between Tel Aviv and Miami Wednesday, marking the airline’s return since it canceled service at MIA in September 2008. Then, an economic crisis drove up fuel costs and rates, forcing the airline to stop serving Miami, said Yoram Elgrabli, El Al’s managing director for North and Central America.

But now, the airline is ready to return to North America, Elgrabli said. Thanks to a long courtship from Miami International Airport, the airline selected Miami as its sixth route into North America. The carrier also serves New York (to John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport), Los Angeles, Boston and Toronto.

This is a day we’ve been working on for literally years.

Aviation Director Emilio González

Beginning Wednesday, the airline is offering three weekly roundtrip flights on 279-seat Boeing 777-200 aircrafts for the nearly 12-hour flight to Tel Aviv. El Al is the second to bring nonstop flights from the Middle East to Miami in recent years. Qatar Airways inaugurated flights to Doha from Miami in June 2014.

The return of the route is a major win for the airport, which has been in talks with El Al since February 2016, when El Al officials visited MIA. Aviation Director Emilio González and a group of executives from MIA flew to Tel Aviv in February 2017 to continue discussions with the airline at Ben Gurion International Airport, where El Al has a major hub.

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MIA airport director Emilio Gonzalez says the airport has been working “literally for years” to bring El Al flights back at a press conference at the airport on Wednesday, November 1. Miami International Airport

“This is a day we’ve been working on for literally years,” González said at a press conference to inaugurate the new route Wednesday, adding that securing the flight was “very important” for the growing airport. El Al is the seventh new airline to begin flying to MIA in this year.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he’s been convinced Miami needed an Israel flight since a trip he took to the country in 2011.

“This is about economic development, this is about connectivity between two great nations and two great areas,” Gimenez said. A direct connection with Israel, which has a robust start-up and entrepreneurship community, could help bolster Miami-Dade’s burgeoning start-up community, Gimenez said.

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Miami-Dade County Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Sally Heyman, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and county commissioner Esteban Bovo, cut the ribbon at the launch of El Al flights at Miami International Airport on Wednesday, November 1. Miami Intenrational Airport

Ready to kick off direct flights to Tel Aviv Wednesday were travelers Jack Mayer and Ivy Faske, who were on their third trip to the country – but their first on a non-stop flight from Miami.

Faske said they booked the trip, a two-week stay in Jerusalem, as soon as they heard El Al was bringing back flights. The couple loves visiting Israel, said Faske, who called it “a special place.”

This is about economic development, this is about connectivity between two great nations and two great areas.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez

“If it was up to my wife, she’d live there,” Mayer said.

Now that they can hop on a direct flight from Miami, they plan to take advantage of the opportunity as often as possible.

“We really like to go, so, yeah, we’ll probably go over for a week in [maybe] three months,” Mayer said.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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