Arkia soon will bring new immigrants to Israel from Ukraine, marking the first time that El Al, the country’s official national airline, will not fly them “home.” Bringing immigrants to Israel is not only a matter of pride, but also a matter of money. El Al profits $2.5 million annually from flying immigrants.
The Jewish Agency broke the El Al monopoly after the airline tried to hike fares for immigrants by 5 percent. El Al backed off, but the damage already had been done, and the Jewish Agency gave Arkia the go-ahead to fly immigrants from cities where it has routes.
Arkia does not have regularly scheduled flights to and from the United States, but the Jewish Agency has not ruled out opening competition there to foreign airlines.
Arkia flights from Paris are expected to bring 1,000 new citizens to Israel this month, and will also carry Jews moving to Israel from the Ukraine on a new route from Kiev.
Nearly 16,000 new immigrants have arrived in Israel this year, with a large increase from North America.