El Al great 88 248.
(photo credit: El Al via Bloomberg)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Monday approved a request by El Al Israel Airlines to launch scheduled flights to Eilat from Ben-Gurion Airport. El Al will become the third carrier on the route, joining Arkia Airlines and Israir Airlines and Tourism.
"The liberalization of the aviation market, which is led by the ministry and includes the possibility of additional airlines to operate on the route, is expected to bring down flight prices and help increase Eilat's and Israel's exposure as a tourist destination," Katz said.
The decision followed a second hearing by the Civil Aviation Authority, which recommended that El Al's request be approved. The request was initially rejected earlier this year over concerns a third carrier on the route would cause financial harm to Arkia and Israir.
Arkia and Israir have yet to say whether they would appeal the decision.
Katz said a third carrier on the route would help boost demand and increase competition. Currently, 20 scheduled daily flights are operated on the route, carrying one million passengers a year.
El Al said the decision would increase the number of tourists, improve service and bring down prices, thereby strengthening incoming foreign tourism and domestic tourism.
El Al said it hoped to launch flights on the route starting this winter in an effort to boost tourism to Eilat.
The Transportation Ministry said a decision about when El Al's flights will begin, including seating capacity, would be made after the Civil Aviation Authority examines the issues more thoroughly.
Katz said the decision to adopt the recommendations by the Civil Aviation Authority was made in consultation with Israel's airlines and in full cooperation with all the relevant parties.
He also announced that the ministry would open more international destinations to competition to allow Arkia and Israir to expand their international operations, in line with recommendations by the Civil Aviation Authority.