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Israir Israel Airlines accused El Al of disregarding its national responsibility by being self involved and not caring about advancing tourism or economic growth, as it presented its response to El Al's petition to block a government decision giving Israir scheduled flights to New York, to the High Court on Monday.
"From El Al's point of view, the company is not concerned if it harms tourism, the hotels, the economy, consumers and other Israeli companies," Israir said. "El Al's main interest is that it continues to operate as the leading and only Israeli airline on the route."
From El Al's attitude, Israir continued, "it seems as if it owns the country and not that Israel has an airline operating in it."
Israir's comments come as the high profile hearing reaches a climax, with the court due to make a decision on the matter by Wednesday.
El Al turned to the court after Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson gave Israir permission to operate daily flights to New York. El Al claims the decision was a violation of a commitment made by the government, on the eve of El Al's privatization in May 2003, to withhold opening up any routes to local competition until certain conditions were achieved. El Al was joined in its petition by the company's workers union and holding company Knafaim.
One industry official said the Israir decision is seen as a sign of things to come for Israeli skies and will serve as an indication for future aviation policy decisions.
While Israel and the US enjoy an open skies policy, allowing any US company to fly a route between the two countries at will, Israel's bilateral agreements with European countries offer limitations on capacity.
A number of European carriers have expressed interest to increase their capacity flying into Tel Aviv. Government officials are due to meet with the German Civil Aviation Authority in the coming weeks to renegotiate Israel's aviation pact with that country.
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