An American Airlines plane in flight.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last week, would-be passengers were saddened to learn that American Airlines would be canceling its Tel Aviv-Philadelphia route, the airline’s only direct flight to the US.
The airline said the decision to stop the flights effective January 4 was financial, but an article in The Marker citing unnamed “sources in the aviation industry” claimed the decision was political.
American’s ties with Arab airlines through the OneWorld alliance, the article claimed, “due to the OneWorld global alliance, whose members include Arab carriers like Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian,” were at the heart of the decision.
Others speculated that, following the nuclear deal with Iran, American was trying to pave the way for a Tehran route, and that continuing flights to Israel would be a problem.
American maintains that it lost $20 million on the route last year, but that the loss was typical, and not simply the result of the 50-day war with Gaza that summer, Operation Protective Edge, which hit Israeli tourism hard.
American, which inherited the route from its merger with USAirways last year, said the route had never been profitable, raising the question why USAirways persisted in running a losing operation since 2009.
Why the financial situation would suddenly warrant closing the route may seem suspicious, but the political reasoning TheMarker cited seems unusual for a number of reasons.
For one, British Airways, another OneWorld alliance member, is continuing its regular flights to and from Israel.
So are OneWorld members AirBerlin, Iberia and even Royal Jordanian itself, which flies a direct route from Tel Aviv to Amman. American maintains code shares with El Al on connecting flights via several European cities.
The Tehran speculation also strains credulity, not only because the possibility of American Airlines opening a route there seems remote.
Turkish Airlines, which flies regular routes in and out of Tel Aviv, also flies to Tehran regularly.
Reports have surfaced in recent days that the Transportation Ministry wants the issue raised in diplomatic circles.