Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, announced Wednesday that Israeli airlines would be resuming flights to Turkey after more than a five-year hiatus.
Flights between Israeli carriers to the middle-eastern country stopped in 2007 due to security issues at Turkish airports, which were not up to the special standards set for air travel by the Israeli government.
Katz noted that the move opens up new opportunities for Israeli carriers, who can now compete on equal terms with Turkish airlines. Turkish air carriers currently conduct over 60 flights per week into Israel, monopolizing the market somewhat to their national carriers.
Now, however, both charter and commercial flights will now be conducted from Israel to Turkey without any restrictions.
The new policy was initiated by the Director of Civil Aviation Authority, Giora Rom, and his Turkish counterpart, who signed an agreement in Ankara on Tuesday allowing for the resumption of Israeli flights to Turkey.
Talks regarding the deal reportedly were carried out over several months; Katz stated that the deal was reached only after Turkish officials agreed to raise security standards to meet Israel's needs.
Arkia CEO Gadi Tepper welcomed the move. "We thank Giora Rom and the Civil Aviation Authority staff on the effort spent in conversations with the airport authorities in Turkey," he stated. "Next season, I hope that Arkia will be able to operate flights to Turkey without limits to hours of operation."
Arkia is one of Israel's leading low-cost carriers. In 2012, the airline company made a special request to operate flights from Tel Aviv to Antalya, and to up security standards at the Antalya airport, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry refused. Arkia currently does sell tickets to Turkey through its website - but through a Turkish carrier, Corendon Airlines.
Israeli flagship carrier El-Al signed an agreement with a Turkish airline in 2010 to code-share flights to the region, but currently does not operate its own flights to Istanbul because of the security requirements.
Flights to Turkey on Israeli airlines will resume as early as summer 2014, according to Rom. Rom also stated that the talks were conducted in a friendly environment and that Turkish officials were willing and ready to work with Israel to resume the flights according to the standards of the new agreement.