In what may come as a blow to European 747F operators, Israel-based El Al Airlines began wet-leasing a 747-400F from U.S.-based Atlas Air [FAT 005279]. Flights between Tel Aviv (TLV) and Liege (LGG) began on Jan. 1.
The move to lease-in capacity follows El Al’s 2019 decision to cease freighter operations of its own, and park the sole 747-400F (26563) it had operated for nine years. Following the retirement, El Al reassured customers that it was nonetheless dedicated to maindeck lift for the key routes it once served with its own freighter – particularly for flights between TLV and LGG.
In a statement related to the 747-400F retirement last year, El Al said it would explore cooperation with other carriers, such as Russia-based AirBridgeCargo and Ireland-based ASL Aviation Group. Several 747-operators have since flown for El Al. Within the past two months, 747Fs operated by at least three carriers, including ASL Airlines Belgium, Air Atlanta Icelandic and CAL Cargo Airlines, have flown for EL Al between LGG and Tel Aviv TLV, according to flight-tracking databases.
Since Jan. 1, El Al has consolidated the number of operators it hires to fly on its behalf by shifting flights to Atlas Air. Although Atlas may ultimately utilize multiple aircraft for the El Al project, at present a single 747-400F (26553) has been utilized for the LGG-TLV services. No other carrier besides Atlas Air has operated an El Al flight number between LGG and TLV since Dec. 31.
While other carriers could still be called on to operate flights on behalf of El Al, the deal alludes to a desire for dedicated capacity. Atlas Air declined to comment on the specifics of the flight and El Al could not be immediately reached for comment.
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