Israeli national airline adding nonstop service to Las Vegas


An El Al Airlines jet prepares for takeoff from Newark Liberty International Airport en route to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Newark, N.J.

Not long ago, according to an El Al Airlines executive, a direct flight between Israel and Las Vegas would not have been considered.

With added demand for travel to the West Coast, including Las Vegas, however, the Israeli national air carrier will offer a weekly nonstop flight from Tel Aviv to Las Vegas beginning next month.

“Vegas wasn’t a priority; it wasn’t something that we thought of,” said Michael Strassburger, El Al’s chief commercial officer. “Sometimes, you have to come out of the box. If there’s a growing market between Vegas and Israel, then why not give them what they want? That’s what was behind the decision for this service.”

Seasonal service to and from McCarran International Airport begins June 14 and will run through April. Earlier this month, El Al also began service to San Francisco.

The airline has long had service to Los Angeles. It will also have ad hoc service options between Israel and Las Vegas for CES in January, Strassburger said.

“We’re starting with weekly service, but we’re very keen on increasing that,” Strassburger said. “When you look at internet searches, Vegas is a growing market for Israeli consumers. We’re seeing more and more of that.”

Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of the Clark County Department of Aviation, said the service is a positive development for Las Vegas.

“It shows the strength of the destination, and it’s great to have (a flight) in that part of the world, which is something that we’ve never had on a scheduled basis,” Vassiliadis said. “It’s exciting. This is going to have, we think, a crossover of business/convention and tourist travelers. It’s a win-win.”

The airline will use Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes between Tel Aviv and Las Vegas.

“I think people don’t understand the connection we have from a business standpoint with Israel,” said Steve Hill, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Israel is a country that has developed a reputation as being at the cutting edge of technology and innovation. They also share a very similar climate with us.”

The authority estimates Las Vegas already welcomes close to 14,000 visitors from Israel annually. That number is now expected to grow.

“We’ve seen a lot of success with international flights lately,” Hill said. “I think that just shows that the world is recognizing that Las Vegas is the place to be. They’re realizing that we continue to grow and mature as a city.”