El Al flights to Eilat resumed on Thursday after a day of cancellations on
Wednesday that resulted from the airline’s concerns over a new landing
El Al on Tuesday decided to cancel its Wednesday flights because
the Civil Aviation Authority was changing the procedure for taking off and
landing at the Eilat airport.
Explaining that the airline needed to
examine the plans thoroughly before adhering to them, the airline said its
flights would not run on Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, Civil Aviation
Authority manager Giora Romm announced that for the next two weeks, El Al would
be allowed to fly its original flight route from Ben-Gurion Airport to
The temporary decision, the Transportation Ministry said, was made
“purely out of concern for El Al passengers who purchased tickets.”
response to the Wednesday flight cancellations, Yigal Cohen, chairman of Arkia
Airline’s workers committee, wrote a letter slamming both El Al and the
Transportation Ministry to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz that day,
calling the airline’s claims of safety issues fictitious. In his letter to Katz,
Cohen presented the minister with “a professional secret in the aviation
industry”: that the most common excuse for “concealing an oversight or an
erroneous decision is the excuse of ‘safety considerations.’” This is because
the public will never argue against a decision predicated upon security, he
“Last night, we followed ‘with concern’ El Al’s announcement that
it would stop flights to Eilat due to ‘safety considerations,’” Cohen wrote.
“You, I and many in the industry know that the mean reason for El Al’s cessation
of flights was a lack of profitability and nothing more.”
In the letter,
Cohen made reference to February 2010, when hundreds of Arkia workers
demonstrated in front of Katz’s office after a decision was made to enable El Al
flights to Eilat in the first place. This decision, he said, boosted competition
and forced the local airlines to slash airfares and lose money.
recall the hallucinatory arguments heard that the opening of this route would
bring strong and active competition in domestic flights, the claim that tens of
thousands of tourists will come to Israel in the wake of this ‘historic
decision,’ the claim that the City of Eilat will blossom and its economy will
prosper,” Cohen said. “Everything turned out to be nonsense.”
to the letter, the Transportation Ministry said Katz’s decision to allow daily
flights to Eilat from companies in addition to Arkia and Israir led to an
increase of about 25 percent in the number of people flying to Eilat and a
decrease in ticket prices. Data show that the number of passengers flying both
Arkia and Israir also increased as a result of this decision, which enabled a
boom in Eilat tourism, the ministry said.
“The Transportation Ministry
will continue to promote competition among airlines in favor of the citizens of
Israel, who are now benefiting from a greater number of flights to Eilat at
lower prices,” the ministry said in a statement.
Also in response to the
letter, El Al stressed that its entrance into the Eilat flight market had
increased competitiveness in the industry, and it provides an important
connection for passengers arriving at Ben- Gurion Airport.
“We call upon
the transportation minister to declare ‘open skies’ also on the Eilat route, and
we have no doubt that such a declaration would increase the frequency [of
flights] to Eilat,” the El Al statement said. In a short period of time, El Al’s
market share of the Eilat line grew to 18%, even though it is only allowed to
run four flights daily, the company said.
“Notwithstanding, El Al chose
to put the safety of its passengers above all other considerations and stop the
morning flights to Eilat,” El Al said. “All other statements are a manipulation
of the issue.”
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