Plane Prayer


Does prayer on an airplane require a minyan and standing, as is done in the Synagogue? A colleague at my workplace asked me this and I told him I’d check with a rabbi. Thanks.



  1. A lofty question! Ideally, the same rules of prayer apply in the “shamayim” (Hebrew for sky or Heaven) as apply on the “eretz” (land).

    However, it is sometimes not possible to pray standing with a minyan, due to practical factors, such as aisle-blockage, turbulence (“Buckle your seat belt!), or general airline policy. In such a case one may pray at their seat (or in the airport Synagogue, which are often available). I suggest consulting with the crew on board to make sure that it is okay, and explain its importance if necessary, and also emphasize that all measures will be taken to act in a courteous and accommodating manner towards others.

    A number of years ago I spoke with the assistant director of public relations of El Al regarding their official policy. The official told me, “El Al is a Jewish airline. We have never stopped this practice of people praying with a minyan, although we know that there are sometimes complaints about this.” If enough people were to congregate and cause a noticeable weight imbalance, the captain would be obligated by international aviation regulations to disperse them, said the official, but this virtually never actually happens.

    A word of advice and an anecdote: Even if one does not have a minyan on board and would like to stand in a “quiet” place near an exit door or at the back of the aircraft, it might be a good idea to mention this to a crew member in that area. Two rabbis I know were flying from one city to another and turbulence caused a different passenger — a first-time flyer — a great deal of fear and anxiety. Just as the flight attendant succeeded in reassuring him that all was normal, it came time for afternoon prayer. The two rabbis got up, put on their hats and jackets, and headed towards the back of the plane. Seeing this, the frightened passenger became hysterical, saying, “You see! You see! Those guys are getting off!”

    Best wishes from the Team