Ben Gurion International Airport
Ben Gurion International AirportIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Israeli airlines are on strike Sunday morning over a planned “open skies” agreement with the European Union. Airlines El Al, Israir and Arkia began cancelling or changing flights at 5 a.m.

The airlines pushed several flights back to allow them to leave before the strike began.

The three companies have demanded changes to the proposed agreement. They fear that opening the airline industry to competition with Europe will significantly lower prices, leading to their collapse. Airline workers’ unions have argued that Israeli airlines are a vital industry worthy of government support, particularly as they continue to fly in times of crisis.

The deal would allow all EU airlines to operate direct flights to Israel, and all Israeli airlines to operate direct flights to EU airports.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced prior to the strike that he is not planning any changes to the “open skies” deal, and will bring it before the government as it is. He argues that the reform will help Israelis by lowering prices.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has the option of declining to bring the proposal before the government at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.

Until then, those who were planning to fly Sunday can get updates on the strike through Israeli airlines’ websites.