EL AL is ending the service of their B747, after 48 years of operation. The Israeli airline celebrated their "Queen of the Sky" with 2 special flights from Tel Aviv to Rome and back last weekend. These flights were only available for EL AL Matmid Frequent Flyer Club members. A roundtrip on the last B747 flight cost:
- 747 Matmid Points in Business Class
- 400 Matmid Points in Economy Class
The seats were sold out within days. I was invited on-board one of these special flights as media. In fact, I think I was the only non Jewish or non Israeli passenger!
Seat Map of EL AL B747-400
EL AL B747-400 has 55 Business Class seats (8 were old First Class seats) and 348 Economy Class seats.
Flight LY1744 Tel Aviv to Rome
There was a "Goodbye 747" sign on most of the check-in desks for this special flight. A reception was held at the gate which displayed a lot of EL AL B747 pictures and unforgettable moments. The Boeing 747 plays an important role in EL AL history, including carrying over 1,100 Ethiopian Jews to Israel on a single B747; which is still the World Record.
The flight was definitely an unusual one, with flight attendants welcoming guests while dressed in farewell B747 T-shirts (I was later given one of these special T-shirt's to celebrate the occasion).
Our flight was operated by Captain Maoz Tsur and F/O Ayal Perry; the aircraft registration was 4X-ELC. Flight time to Rome was 3 hours cruising at FL 36,000.
Many of the 18 crew who operated this flight were family, including the 2 pursers who are husband and wife; the Captain's daughter was also a flight attendant.
The Economy Class meal included a choice of omelette or blintzes (pancakes with sweet cheese) while Business Class meals included egg shakshuka or fried rosti vegetable.
Look at these first generation IFE screens on the B747-400. EL AL was one of the first airlines to introduce personal TV screen in 1994, on their first B747-400.
The flight was an "open cockpit" flight. Who would've thought that the world's most "secured" airline would allow you to visit the flight deck during a flight?
The atmosphere on this flight was "super", just like on all the other B747 farewell flights I have had.
After 3 hours, we landed on runway 16R in Rome FCO. We received a water cannon salute before taxing to the gate. It was Captain Maoz Tsur's last landing on the B747-400. It was a perfect landing!
LY1747 Rome to Tel Aviv
After 2 days weekending in Rome, on Sunday it was time to fly the last ever EL AL B747-400 back to Tel Aviv. EL AL were making sure that this flight would be extra special.
There was another gate ceremony, with flight attendants dressed in retro uniforms (circa 1970s).
This flight was headed by EL AL's Boeing 747 fleet manager, Captain Jonathan Gat and F/O Ayal Perry. We departed 30 minutes late and were finally airborne around 11:10 local time. Departure was from Runway 25 and we headed straight out to the sea.
We carried a total of 434 persons on-board including extra crew and their families. Every seat, including the jumpseat and crew rest, was filled, as there were so many who came to bid a farewell to the B747-400.
On this flight, there were special bartenders serving special cocktails to all passengers. Lunch consisted of Lasagna or cannelloni. Special farewell 747 chocolate's and tiramisu's were handed out to all.
I enjoyed my lunch inside the best office, the cockpit at 36,000 ft. Other passengers were also allowed to visit the cockpit during the flight.
Drawing a Boeing 747 in the sky
After 1.5 hours, we descended to 10,000 ft. Passengers were treated to a special show in the sky, a drawing of a Boeing 747.
The idea was from EL AL's marketing department and it was a long planned precise operation by the flight department. Over 80 additional way points were entered into FMC (Flight management computer) to ensure the drawing would be precise.
The speed of the plane was lowered between 180-200 knots during the drawing to ensure that it could turn slowly and precisely. ATC over Nicosia (Cyrpus) were informed.
It took nearly 2 hours to complete the complex drawing. During that time FlightRadar24 and other tracking apps were covering our flight. We received flight messages from EL AL that said "you're looking good, the engines are perfect".
The cabin was quiet during this special activity as the plane was doing many turns at various speeds. Most passengers were seated and strapped in, but many took to looking out of the window. The captain increased speed during straight line travel but had to reduce speed during the turns, to make sure the drawing kept the correct shape.
After we completed the drawing, the entire cabin erupted with cheers and joy.
We climbed back to 31,000 ft and continued our remaining journey into Tel Aviv.
Before the end of the flight every passenger was presented with these retro postcards, including a flight certificate.
In closing, I want to thank you EL AL for inviting me on this special 747 farewell flight experience. The pilots, flight attendants and all the passengers I met were super friendly towards me. They figured out that I had come a long way to be there and they went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. They gave me the best treatment, everywhere I went inside the 747.
Because the love of this airplane 747 and aviation, I got to meet many interesting people and had many great experiences around the globe. Because of the 747, it brings many of us together. It doesn’t matter our background, colour or religion. Aviation connects the globe, it unite us, not divides us. I hope you enjoyed the last flight of El Al B747 coverage.
There will be a detailed video on YouTube this Saturday.