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Should someone say the HaGomel blessing after taking an airplane flight? I seem to remember this being the practice, but honestly the average commercial airplane flight these days is 10 times safer than driving to the supermarket...

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I heard a shiur on this topic once, and if I recall, standard practice seems to contradict what is dictated by technical halacha. – jake Jun 23 '11 at 21:21
To flesh out the above, common practice is only on flights over an ocean, or according to some, from coast to coast. Rabbi Feinstein felt that any flight, as statistically safe as it is, warrants hagomel because once you're at 30000 feet, you're being "saved from danger" (irrespective of all statistics!). (Now some could argue that those born in the 1970s USA think about danger differently than Rabbi Feinstein, born 1895 in Russia ... but that was his opinion.) – Shalom Jun 24 '11 at 14:09
Rabbi Feinstein felt it was similar to a boat voyage; it wasn't so much the statistical risk as the fact that right now there's only a few feet of wood between you and Davy Jones' locker. – Shalom Jun 24 '11 at 14:11
What about flying within the US from JFK where you "fly over an ocean" for quite a few miles during takeoff? – Shmuel Brin Aug 1 '11 at 22:31
@tom smith I think that belongs in a separate question... – yydl Aug 2 '11 at 3:59
up vote 11 down vote accepted

There are various Halachic opinions on this subject. This article by Rabbi Doniel Neustadt (pg. 3-4) sums up the various opinions very nicely (see footnotes there for names):

1) It is doubtful whether ha-gomel may be recited, unless a potentially dangerous situation developed during the flight.

2) Ha-gomel is recited only when the airplane crossed over an ocean or a desert.

3) Ha-gomel is recited after every airplane trip.

He then goes on to say that the general custom today follows #2 above.

I also saw that R' Moshe Feinstein zt"l held that one should only say Hagomel on the return trip (if the trip is less than 30 days). The exception to this is if one is traveling to visit Israel, where Ha-gomel should be said after both directions (i.e. after landing in Israel, and then after landing back in America). (taken from here pg. 2-3)

For a practical decision, please see a Rabbi.

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The basic rule is to say hagomel after crossing an ocean (on water) or a desert (on land) but not after other trips.

http://www.mevaseret.org/mmy/searchshiurim.php?shiur=105 lists various rabbis' views regarding airplane travel. I haven't checked the sources it cites, but if it's to be trusted then Rabbi Sternbuch cites others as saying not to say it unless the flight was "eventful" [whatever that means], the Tzitz Eliezer says to say hagomel after any but a short domestic flight, and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein says to say it after any flight.

As always, for practical guidance, CYLOR.

Update: I've checked the sources of that Web page, but have skimmed them rather than read every word. (That's always dangerous, but) AFAICT the Tzitz Eliezer actually says to say hagomel after going over a desert or ocean [yam, which may include larger seas or what-have-you], unless it's a short domestic flight. I don't see that he says to say hagomel after a long flight that doesn't go over a yam or desert, which is what the Web page implies in his name. Rav Moshe Feinstein is quoted correctly AFAICT. Rav Moshe Sternbuch is quoted incompletely. He actually writes that the custom in South Africa is to say hagomel after any flight over the yam [or, I suppose, the desert?]; he also quotes the Chazon Ish second-hand as saying to say hagomel after any flight, and others (the Belzer rav, the Tchubiner rav) secondhand as saying not to say it.

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