El Al Operates Cargo Flights to Turkey for First Time Since 2010

YERUSHALAYIM -
El Al Airlines planes are seen on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

El Al will begin operating cargo flights from Tel Aviv to Turkey for the first time in a decade.

The first El Al plane landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to collect 24 tons of humanitarian aid and protective equipment for U.S. medical teams fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkish aviation authorities approved El Al’s request from last week to operate two weekly cargo flights from Tel Aviv to Istanbul transporting goods.

El Al had operated direct commercial flights from Tel Aviv to Istanbul until Turkey grounded the line in 2010 due to an incident in which nine pro-Palestinian provocateurs aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla attacked IDF soldiers and were killed while trying to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip. The event led to a strain on Israel-Turkey relations.

The cash-strapped airline has been locked in negotiations with Finance Ministry officials over Israel backing a $400 million loan to help it through the coronavirus crisis.

Foreign visitors are barred from entering the country and incoming Israelis must be quarantined, which combined with a global fall in demand for travel has hit El Al hard.