An El Al plane at Ben Gurion Airport
An El Al plane at Ben Gurion Airport Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90

El Al’s sudden move to no longer offer flights out of Toronto beginning in October has caught the Canadian Jewish community by complete surprise.

El Al will stop direct flights from Toronto to Israel after the end of the High Holy Days on October 27, 2022. The move will mean the end of El Al’s nearly five decade presence in Canada. Flights from Montreal were previously stopped in the early 2000s.

According to the Canadian Jewish News, pre-pandemic, Canada was an important hug for travelling to Israel, with 100,000 Canadians making the trip. The goal was to increase that number by 10 percent in 2023, but El Al leaving the country will have a significant impact on travel numbers, Gal Hana, the Israeli consul of tourism for Canada, told the news outlet.

Hana explained that Canada is a huge market for Israel tourism, with Canadians visiting more frequently, often staying longer, and on average spending more than other tourists.

The company’s announcement that it was leaving Canada stunned many members of the Jewish community, including Toronto financial advisor Asaf Halperin, who started a petition to keep El Al in Canada.

The change.org petition has so far received 3,588 signatures.

The petition called El Al’s decision “the most disappointing news.”

“This decision was made by the owner of the company Mr. Kenny Rozenberg and its CEO Dina Ben Tal Ganancia, except they have not realized that Israelis living in Canada and the Jewish Community have been enjoying El Al for over 40 years or so,” it explained. “We understand the importance of station profit however it is not the case here. El Al Toronto is a profitable line contrary to other stations like Boston USA and others in the USA that are not as profitable as Toronto. Toronto flights are always fully booked, and you are hearing this from someone in the industry.”

It continued: “As an Israeli and a Canadian I am asking all the Israelis and the Jewish community in Toronto and other cities in Canada to ask Mr. Kenny Rozenberg to have a second thought and to reweigh and calculate his decision again. We would not want to lose our only icon El Al that has been good to many of us and servicing us many beautiful years.”

The petition explained that with the loss of El Al, the only other option would be to take Air Canada, which “will control our market which will make it very difficult for everyone to fly to our homeland.”

The Israeli consul of tourism for Canada’s office also reached out to El Al headquarters to express hope that the decision could be reversed.

“When we understood the [Toronto-Tel Aviv] route was being compromised, we reached out to the New York office and tried to advocate against it. The route was very successful in 2019 and there is no reason it won’t be in 2022 and especially in 2023. We see bookings are already up," Hana said.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)