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El Al is offering a new option for passengers looking to minimize the time they spend at the airport: baggage and security check-ins from home.
Israel's national carrier on Wednesday announce the start of its "Pre-Flight Service from Home" program, a new venture the company has nicknamed "check-in and security from your living room." Through the program, passengers will be able to check luggage and complete the airline's security screening at home, at the workplace or at other locations of their choosing.
The process is simple: El Al agents show up at a time and place designated by the passenger to complete the steps the customer would otherwise have to go through at the airport. Once the process is complete, the visiting El Al employees present the passenger his boarding pass and transport his checked baggage to Ben-Gurion Airport. The passenger can then skip the El Al check-in counter at Ben-Gurion and proceed directly to passport control with just his hand luggage to worry about. Suitcases and other pre-checked luggage will meet the passenger at the baggage claim once he's reached his final destination.
"Global research conducted by the aviation industry has shown that airport delays represent the greatest amount of [wasted] time for business travelers," said David Maimon, an El Al service official behind the program. "This new service provides an appropriate solution and will save passengers valuable waiting time."
While the new program saves time, it doesn't come without a price. The service costs $49 for a single passenger, with each additional passenger doing home check-in at a single location costing an additional $5. For groups of six or more completing their "living room check-in" together, each passenger will be charged $15, with all fees for the service to be paid by credit card.
Pre-flight check-ins can be completed between six and 24 hours ahead of flight time and can be arranged by calling *2678.
The program is currently available at locations between Jerusalem, Netanya and Gadera.
Hotel occupancy falls in 1Q
In a development that mirrors numbers across the travel industry, occupancy rates fell at hotels around the country during the first quarter of 2007. Just 51 percent of Israeli hotel rooms were filled during the first three months of the new year, a drop of 3% from the equivalent period in 2006. The decline in occupancy rates differed across the country, with the steepest drop-off coming in hotels in the North - evidence that last summer's war with Hizbullah is continuing to inflict the worst economic damage on the region most directly affected by the fighting.
Occupancy rates were down almost across the board, however, with Jerusalem hotels seeing an 11.5% decline (versus a 17.4% drop in the North) and hotels in southern Israel experiencing a 9% slide in occupancy. Facilities offering overnight accommodations in the Haifa region did significantly better than in the rest of northern Israel, with occupancy rates in the country's third-largest city diminishing by a relatively small 3.7% from the year before.
As it does in so many other ways, Tel Aviv defied the trend dominating the rest of the country in early 2007, actually experiencing a 4.4% rise in hotel occupancy rates over the same period in 2006. Hotels in Tel Aviv stayed 63.5% full between January and March, far better than in southern Israel, where occupancy rates of 50.8% proved the second best in the country.
In total, Israeli hotels logged 1.6 million overnight stays in the first 90 days of the year, 669,000 of them by tourists from overseas. March boasted the highest occupancy rate of the January through March period at 57%, though the number was still down 3% from the same quarter in 2006.
Tourism ministers converge on Bat Yam
Ukrainian Culture and Tourism Minister Bugotzky Yurei will join Israeli Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich and members of his own government Thursday for a tour of Bat Yam and a look at travel and immigration from his country to Israel.
The Ukrainian delegation, which will also include the country's ambassador to Israel, will meet Aharonovich and two other government ministers - Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Immigrant and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim - as part of their day-long visit to Bat Yam, which was arranged as part of "From Ukraine with Love," a cultural festival taking place at the Bat Yam Amphitheater. Some 50 Ukrainian artists have traveled to Israel for the festival and will perform for the Israeli and Ukrainian officials at a special show taking place Thursday evening.
British Air offers deal to Scotland
British Bonus, the British Airways subsection responsible for deals on-land, has come up with a special deal for visitors to Scotland beginning their journey in Tel Aviv. Between now and October 31, $849 will get passengers round-trip tickets connecting in London between Ben-Gurion and Glasgow or Edinburgh, as well as a seven-day vehicle rental through EuropeCar.
The price is per individual, includes taxes and is available only to those purchasing tickets for two or more travelers. The deal can be extended to double rooms at participating hotels across Scotland, which as part of the offer cost $60 a night per individual.