Embarking on a journey can bring with it a myriad of halachic queries. Let’s address some of the key questions that arise when boarding a flight.

Tefilat Haderech (Traveler's Prayer)

When setting out on a trip, you recite Tefilat Haderech, the Traveler's Prayer, seeking Divine protection on our journey. On a road trip, the prayer is to be recited once you leave the city limits.1 Timing this prayer during air travel, however, depends in part on the airport's location.

When to recite Tefilat Haderech if the airport is outside of the city?

If your airport lies outside the city's halachic boundaries, and you need to travel more than 2.36 miles (3.8 km) outside of the city to get there, Tefilat Haderech should be said once you depart the city en route to the airport.2

What is considered outside the city?

It's important to understand that halachic city limits may differ from governmental ones, and contiguous urban areas are considered a single city. Once there is a gap of more than 70 2/3 amot (approximately 112 feet) between dwellings, you have reached the halachic city limits. Any area beyond this is considered outside the city, regardless of jurisdiction.3

When to recite if the airport is within the city?

If the airport is within the city limits, opinions vary on when to say the prayer.

Some rabbis suggest waiting until the plane has taken off, as you're technically still "in the city" beforehand.4

Others advise reciting Tefilat Haderech while on the runway right before (or during) takeoff. They explain that just as delaying the recitation of Tefilat Haderech until after leaving the city reduces the chance of returning home, similarly, once the plane has taken off, the likelihood of returning significantly decreases. At the same time, since takeoff itself is among the riskier aspects of flying, they argue it's best to recite Tefilat Haderech just before the plane departs. This approach is more commonly followed.5

What if I missed the ideal time to say Tefilat Haderech?

If you didn't say Tefilat Haderech earlier, you can recite it anytime during the flight before landing.6 And if you accidentally recited it too early, then bedieved (“after the fact”), you've fulfilled your obligation and need not repeat it.7

Read: Traveler’s Prayer in English and Hebrew

Daily Prayer Service

Daily prayers can raise two key concerns while traveling by plane: proper timing and posture during specific parts of the prayers.

Do I need to plan my flight around prayer times?

It’s always best to pray in a place where you won’t be disturbed and can concentrate properly. Additionally, it’s forbidden to set out on a journey before reciting the Amidah in the morning.8 So when booking a flight, it's advisable to consider halachic prayer times. However, if you cannot take a later flight, you're permitted to travel before praying.

When do I pray while flying?

To determine when to pray during a flight, follow the time in the place you're flying over.9 Here are some guidelines:

  • Flying east: Be aware that time moves quickly, leaving only a few hours before the time for a specific prayer passes.
  • Flying west: Time seems to stretch, with many hours passing without the need to pray.

Must I stand up to pray?

Although the Amidah is typically recited standing, it's often challenging to maintain proper concentration and avoid disturbing fellow passengers and staff while standing during a flight. In this case, you may sit for the Amidah prayer, with your back straight, your feet together and your head slightly bent.10 Try to stand or raise yourself slightly at the times you're meant to bow, and if possible, stand and take three steps back when concluding the Amidah.11

It should be noted that some airlines have dedicated prayer spaces, so check with El Al on your next flight to Israel!

Get: The Smart Siddur App

Crossing the International Dateline

Crossing the International Dateline can result in skipping or repeating a day, posing halachic challenges. Consult your rabbi for guidance on holidays (like Shavuot) and laws of Family Purity.

As for prayers, follow the general guidelines mentioned above.12

Thus, on a westbound flight, if you prayed Shacharit on Wednesday morning and crossed the dateline to Thursday morning, you don’t need to pray Shacharit again since you haven't experienced any new sunsets or sunrises.

On an eastbound flight, however, you'll experience an additional sunrise and should pray Shacharit again, even if you're repeating the Song of the Day.13

Food and Drink on the Plane

Kosher food and beverages during air travel present a unique set of questions. Let's delve into these, ensuring you enjoy a kosher journey while soaring high above the earth.

Is there an issue with drinking coffee on the plane?

Plain, unflavored coffee beans or instant coffee generally don't require kosher certification. However, the kettles, urns and mugs used might pose an issue if they've been cleaned with or used for non-kosher items. Opinions vary on whether one may drink coffee served on a plane. It's best to seek your rabbi's advice on this.

How do I wash my hands for bread on the plane?

One is obligated to wash hands with water before consuming bread, even at 35,000 feet. Ideally, perform this outside the restroom. However, under extenuating circumstances, washing hands in modern restrooms is generally accepted. Recite the blessing upon exiting the restroom.14

What if there is no water?

If no plain water is available, you may wash your hands with carbonated water. If no carbonated water is available, you can use other beverages.15

Can I wash before the flight?

If you washed your hands and ate a bit of bread at the airport with the intention of continuing your meal during the flight, you don't need to wash again, provided you’ve not used the bathroom, touched your shoes or otherwise “sullied” your hands and a significant period (72 minutes) without eating has not elapsed.16

Is there an issue with eating food that was kept under the seat of a sleeping passenger?

Traditionally, we avoid food stored under a sleeping person's bed.17 However there are reasons to be lenient with plane seats, and you can consume food kept under the seat of a sleeping passenger.18

Flying on Fast Days

When does my fast end if I’m flying on a fast day?

On fast days, your fasting duration might change based on your travel direction. If you're flying eastward, you can break your fast at nightfall, despite experiencing a shorter fast. Conversely, a westward journey can lengthen your fast day significantly.19 If enduring the additional fasting hours proves challenging, consult your rabbi.20

Note: Flying is prohibited on Yom Kippur (and usually on Tisha B’Av as well21 ).

With these guidelines, you can experience a seamless, spiritually nourishing journey. Safe travels!

Read: Jewish Fast Days FAQ