© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An El Al airlines plane is seen after its landing at Nice airport, France, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli airline El Al said on Sunday it was returning Boeing (NYSE:) 777-200ER aircraft to its fleet to meet high travel demand during the summer.

Israel’s flag carrier sidelined six 777s at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis when it halted all flights between March and September 2020 amid plunging demand. Its aging 747s had already been retired and replaced by 15 new Dreamliner 787 aircraft on long haul routes to North America and Asia.

The airline has six 777 planes with an average age of nearly two decades and said it would return some of them to service for its routes to Bangkok, Phuket, Athens and Dubai — destinations it said are in demand.

“The return of the planes will make it possible to expand the flight schedule in the peak season and even allow additional destinations,” El Al said.

It added that the aircraft, some of which were used on cargo routes, have passed all tests and adjustments needed to return to the skies.

According to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport data, the number of passengers on El Al rose 151% in June over June 2021. Over the first half of 2022, 1.6 million passengers flew El Al, up from 400,000 a year earlier.

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