El Al Israel Airlines plans to run organized inflight prayer sessions in the rear galley on long-haul flights to the United States. The concept is being trialled in an effort to prevent Orthodox Jewish passengers from blocking the aisles and disrupting other passengers as they carry out ad-hoc prayers throughout the flight.
Passengers will be advised of set prayer times and then invited to the large aft galley where they will be invited to participate in a ‘minyan’ or prayer quorum. At least 10 Jewish men are required for this particular ritual.
Flight attendants have been advised in an internal memo reported by Globes to advertise the service over the planes PA system and then facilitate the prayer service as close to the required times as possible.
Orthodox Jewish men observe three daily prayer rituals and the Shacharit morning prayers can last for as long as 40 minutes. El Al’s flight attendants have been advised that they’ll have to organise inflight galley activities accordingly to allow the full prayer session to conclude.
In the event of turbulence, however, passengers will be asked to return to their seats.
Without a dedicated prayer area, Orthodox Jewish men often stand up in the aisles or congregate around door areas to perform their prayers. This activity can happen throughout the flight and disrupt other passengers and stop flight attendants from doing their jobs.
Some airlines, including United Airlines, ban passengers from standing up to perform prayers on flights to and from Israel due to safety issues and this line of thinking is backed up by some Rabbis who believe it’s perfectly acceptable to remain seated on a plane to take part in prayer.
Others, however, disagree and inflight prayer sessions can prove troublesome and a point of contention.
While El Al plans to simply adapt the rear galley as a makeshift prayer area, Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier airline has a dedicated prayer area at the back of every long-haul aircraft which can accommodate up to 10 passengers.
The prayer area has grab handles should sudden turbulence hit, curtains for privacy and screens and display a Qibla finder. Etihad Airways also allows passengers to pray in curtained off areas at aircraft doors during the Holy month of Ramadan.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.