Beginning in the spring of 2019, Israel-bound Washingtonians will have the convenience of hopping on a nonstop flight to Tel Aviv from their home city.
On Aug. 2, United Airlines announced in a press release that the carrier will begin nonstop service from Washington Dulles International Airport to Ben-Gurion International Airport on May 22. United has operated flights to Israel since 1999, according to the press release, but this flight will be the airline’s first to originate in Washington.
“We look forward to continuing to serve Israel with this new service for our customers traveling between the U.S. capital and one of the most advanced science and technology sectors in the world,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president for international network, in the press release.
For 18 months, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, the Israeli American Council, Virginia Israel Advisory Board, Maryland Israel Development Center and others had been urging various airlines to institute a Washington-to-Israel flight, according to Ron Halber, the JCRC’s executive director.
“The Jewish community’s voice was one of many factors, but it played a significant role to show that there was a domestic market for traffic,” Halber said. “It was a wonderful community collaboration.”
Halber said the Jewish groups met with airline representatives where they presented data on the number of Israelis who live and work in the Washington region. Some of the information was drawn from an online survey, aimed at gauging interest in a possible Washington to Tel Aviv flight.
Another factor was the recent demographic study of the area’s Jews, which was commissioned and funded by the Morningstar Foundation for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. It found that there are about 10,000 Israelis living in the region.
(The Morningstar Foundation’s principals, Susie and Michael Gelman, are members of the ownership group of Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes Washington Jewish Week.)
Halber said United determined that the route would be profitable. “If they didn’t believe that this region could sustain a direct flight, they would never do it,” he said.
Mel Chaskin, the chair of the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, said his organization had been lobbying both United and Israeli carrier El Al Airlines for a Dulles-Tel Aviv flight for 15 years. He estimated that the route will have a $300 million economic impact over 10 years for Northern Virginia. It will particularly benefit the roughly 60 Israeli companies that are based in these suburbs.
“It’ll be a tremendous economic boost for the area,” he said.
The news was also welcome to Barry Bogage, the executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center. Bogage said that he had hoped for a direct flight out of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, but was still pleased that United chose one of the Washington area’s airports for its new Israel flight.
“It’ll be great for the political folks, the businesspeople and the think-tank folks,” he said.
“We know that for many people in the Washington area, traveling to New York or Newark became a bit of a hassle,” Halber said of the closest cities with nonstop flights to Israel.
“Having a flight where you can drive 45 minutes and hop on a plane reduces travel time and helps increase