Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara will fly to Rome on a Boeing 737 instead of the 777 they preferred, after carrier El Al was unable to find a suitable pilot for the state trip.
The premier is slated to fly to Italy for high-level meetings on Thursday, one of Netanyahu’s first trips abroad since retaking the premiership. The Prime Minister’s Office had arranged a Boeing 777 wide-body airliner to ferry the prime minister and his coterie, but no El Al pilot certified to fly the plane was able to fly the route.
Hebrew news sites report that after the PMO issued a new tender for the flight, now on a narrower 737, El Al won the commission again and this time has a pilot and crew.
On Sunday night, an El Al spokesperson claimed that a crew was been found, as the PMO announced it would re-open the tender to other carriers, a blow to El Al, which has flown Israeli leaders for decades.
The El Al spokesperson denied that the issue finding pilots was political in nature, instead blaming it on the 777 fleet’s crew not fully returning to service after being grounded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Calcalist business daily, moving to the smaller 737 will save Israeli taxpayers hundreds of thousands of shekels.