After the Civil Aviation Authority rejected its request, El Al has now received a special dispensation from Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to fly commercially from Ben Gurion International Airport to Eilat.
Arkia and Israir, Israel’s two other airlines, are not happy with the decision. They had announced earlier that they would appeal in court against such an eventuality.
A few months ago, Giora Romm, head of the Civil Aviation Authority, turned down El Al’s request to join the El Al-Tel Aviv competition. He explained that the route was already “full,” and that introducing a third competitor would cause major economic harm to Arkia and Israir. “There is not yet room in Israel’s internal aviation network for additional carriers on this route,” Romm declared.
Minister Katz feels differently. “Israel’s skies should be opened more broadly,” he said Monday – and a committee of representatives of the Tourism and Transportation Ministries and the anti-trust supervisor agreed.
Katz said that the move should bring down fares to Eilat, and will increase demand for the route. Currently, a million passengers fly annually to and from Eilat on some 20 flights a day.
The onset of the new arrangement and the frequency of El Al’s flights to Eilat have not yet been determined.
Eilat, with a population nearing 50,000, is a burgeoning sea-port city and prime tourism destination for Europeans. It also features a growing religious-Zionist population, with a yeshiva high school scheduled to open this year.
Minister Katz said he plans to enable Arkia and Yisrair to expand their international operations to additional locations. Each of them currently flies to over 20 destinations in Europe and Russia.