- Ari Marshall aimed to create a religious airline connecting Miami and Israel.
- The airline would have unique features such as a no-alcohol policy, religious movies for in-flight entertainment, and even religious classes.
- EL AL now operates direct flights between Miami and Tel Aviv due to high demand.
Throughout the years, there have been many airline concepts that have left a mark. One of these carriers, The Lord’s Airline, using the tagline “Fly the heavenly skies,” looked to connect Miami and Israel. Unfortunately, though, the airline was never able to take off; let’s look at the history of The Lord’s Airline.
In 1985, New Jersey businessman Ari Marshall sought to build a new airline for Christian and Jewish pilgrimages that would provide all-inclusive charters between Miami International Airport (MIA) and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), providing a direct path to Jerusalem. Marshall believed strongly in creating a religious airline to ferry passengers between the United States and Israel. “The Russians have their airline. The British have one. So does Playboy. So why shouldn’t the Lord have an airline all his own?” Marshall asked Reuters in 1986.
The US-based carrier planned to fly three times a week between Florida and Israel, and its aircraft would include unique features such as a no-alcohol policy as well as Bibles and Torahs in place of in-flight magazines. Furthermore, only religious movies would be shown for IFE, every seat back would have a plaque with the Ten Commandments, and there would be in-flight religious classes for children. Lastly, a quarter of the tickets would be destined for missionary work.
Marshall, the airline’s Christian founder, told United Press International in November 1985, “The airplanes will have a biblical theme, with Bibles for the Christians and Torahs for the Jewish passengers.” Adding that the theme of the airline is a Judeo-Christian atmosphere.
The Lord’s Airline needed an aircraft for the business plan to come to fruition, so they bought a single DC-8 airliner bearing the registration N893AF. However, the airline could not get the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval for the aircraft modifications they wanted to make. At the same time, investors in the airline began getting restless with the constant delays of the maiden flight.
By 1987, it became clear that the airline would not get off the ground, and investors became increasingly upset. This started a dispute in the press between Marshall and his former business partner, Theodore Lyszczasz, who referred to Marshall as a “professional con artist.” In the aftermath of the public dispute, Marshall’s dream of creating a highly religious airline based in the United States fizzled out as the airline went out of business.
Same route, new airline
Although Marshall could never launch flights between Miami and Tel Aviv, Israeli flag carrier EL AL operates a direct service between the two destinations as there is a significant demand in both directions.
Photo: Mike Fuchslocher/Shutterstock
Since November 2017, EL AL has connected Tel Aviv and Miami and has only increased its presence in South Florida following American Airlines terminating its service between Miami and Tel Aviv in March 2023. On April 15, 2024, EL AL will launch a twice-weekly service between Tel Aviv and Fort Lauderdale using a Boeing 787. This expansion has come amid increasing demand for flights to Israel due to a historic migration of both Israeli Americans and American Jews to Florida. The state has the third-largest Jewish population in the United States after New York and California as of 2020.