The Israeli flag carrier El Al reportedly squeezed at least 30 more passengers than there were seats on a Boeing 777-200 last week as the airline rushed to get reservists back home to help fight Hamas.
An account of the unusual situation emerged with photo evidence of young men huddled together and attempting to sleep on the floor next to one of the exit doors as the plane flew from Bangkok to Tel Aviv.
Thousands of young Israelis who were outside their home country when Hamas launched its deadly assault on October 7 have responded to the government’s so-called Order 8 emergency call-up order, but their attempts to get home have been hampered by airlines suspending flights to Israel.
That has left El Al attempting to fill the void and taking extraordinary measures to get as many reservists back home as physically possible.
“Before boarding the plane from Bangkok to Israel, the terminal was full of young backpackers who want to return to Israel and enlist in Order 8 emergency call up for the reserves,” explained one of the passengers onboard El Al flight LY82.
“Upon boarding, they announced that all those who still do not have a seat will wait and try to get everyone on the plane. There were dozens of young people there who wanted to go back to enlist”.
After filling up all the passenger seats, the witness says that 20 young women were then called forward and put on flight attendant jumpseats and other available spaces.
“After that, the captain gave permission, and more than ten young men to sit on the floor in the kitchens and near the doors of the plane were put on the flight,” the witness account continued.
“The pictures speak for themselves and illustrate a little of what was on this special flight. During the flight I saw the captain walking around the plane making sure the crew was taking care of all these wonderful young people.”
El Al also flew on a Saturday for the first time in more than 40 years last weekend after securing permission from religious authorities to operate special flights from New York JFK and Bangkok.
Of course, 30 extra passengers on an El Al flight is nothing compared to the record the airline broke in 1991 and the airline carried as many as 1,122 people on a single Boeing 747 jumbojet as part of Operation Solomon which saw Israel evacuate Ethiopian Jews during the country’s civil war.
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.