The Ghost Airline That Has Linked Cairo and Tel Aviv for Decades

This was fascinating!

Eventually, Paley was directed onto a bus that took him and the other passengers to a far corner of the tarmac, where a small white plane with no markings or logo was waiting. They boarded. “The feeling you get is that you’re going somewhere illicit,” he says, adding that the oddity of the flight has stayed with him even years later. “You’re entering into an anonymous experience, and you’re clearly not in Milan, or New York.”

The unmarked plane belonged to Air Sinai, which only flies between Cairo and Tel Aviv. In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a historic peace treaty, overseen by the United States, which inaugurated diplomatic relations between the two countries and made Egypt the first Arab nation to recognize the State of Israel. Air Sinai, founded in 1982, fulfills a term in the treaty that had to be implemented within three years of signing: the two countries must maintain active civilian aviation routes—meaning there always had to be a direct flight between Israel and Egypt.

extreme privacy around Air Sinai’s existence. For most of its history, anybody looking online for tickets between Cairo and Tel Aviv would find a host of options for airlines offering indirect flights with stops in places like Amman, Jordan or Istanbul, Turkey. They might find a few references to a direct flight operated by an airline called Air Sinai, but any attempt to book it would end in a message to call a travel agent or contact the airline directly.

The only way to book a ticket through Air Sinai, for those in the know, was to go through a full-service travel agency or email the company, having found their address through word of mouth. An employee would then ask for a scan of your passport and an international wire transfer to cover the cost of the ticket. The airline only took cash, and sometimes only took U.S. dollars.