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Delta Air Lines is planning to resume flights to Tel Aviv, the Tourism Ministry said Tuesday, after a four year absence from operating in Israel. The airline will fly from Atlanta to Tel Aviv and is expected to start the route in April next year.
After cancelling its Israel activity in 2001 with the outbreak of the intifada, the company decided to return in light of a rise in tourist activity and negotiations carried out by Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson.
Delta is due to make its official announcement at a press conference in Atlanta on October 6, which Hirchson will attend.
Hirchson said that the move held important strategic significance for the Israeli tourism industry and was part of the ministry's program to boost the number of visitors from the US Evangelical Christian community. "The entrance of Delta to the Israel will mean an additional 100,000 American tourists each year," the ministry said in a statement.
US tourism has been on the rise over the last year in line with the general growth of activity to Israel. The Central Bureau of Statistics reported that the number of US tourist arrivals reached 221,768 in the first half of 2005, showing an increase of 24 percent from the same period last year.
Delta will become the third airline to operate between the US and Israel, together with El Al and Continental Airlines and will be the only one to fly to Ben Gurion direct from Atlanta.
The announcement comes two weeks after Delta filed for bankruptcy, citing rising fuel costs and competition from discount carriers as the cause of its continued losses. In the last four years the airline has posted losses of almost $10 billion and last week the company unveiled its plan to cut as many as 9,000 jobs and reduce employee and executive pay, as part of an effort to resume profitability within two years.
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