This record-setting flight took place as part of Operation Solomon. Operation Solomon was an effort by the Israelis in 1991 to help rescue some Ethiopian Jews. The Ethiopian government under leader Mengistu Haile Mariam was about to fall to Eritrean and Tigrean.
The goal of the operation was to take Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Israel was concerned about the Jews’ safety during the government transition, so they decided to take them out of the country. They also wanted to take advantage of the weakened government.
The government had not allowed much emigration previously, but Israelis hoped that with the toppling of the government, they would be able to get the Jews out of Ethiopia. That’s how a plane ended up with so many people! It was a quick attempt at getting as many Jews as possible back to Israel.
An EI AI 747 carried 1,122 passengers. Officially, it only registered 1,087, but some of the children hid in their mother’s skirts and got on that way. Planners only anticipated putting 760 people on the plane, but the Ethipian Jews were light, so they fit a lot more on. There were also 3 babies born on the way to Israel.