Arkia to halt Shabbat leasing for El Al

Move could force El Al to decide between grounding its fleet on Shabbat and losing revenue, or flying on Shabbat and losing haredi patronage.

By OMER RABIN/GLOBES
April 26, 2011 23:24
1 minute read.
An El Al plane taxiing down the runway

311_el al plane. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. is finding increasingly difficult to come up with a sustainable solution for Shabbat operations.

Arkia Airlines Ltd. on Tuesday told Globes it has notified El Al that it would stop leasing services to El Al beginning May 1. This means that after a month’s operations El Al will no longer be able to operate Shabbat flights using an Arkia code.

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Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd. is also leaning toward terminating its leasing agreement with El Al, but it declined to make an official statement on the matter, sources at the company told Globes.

Since El Al’s charter subsidiary Sun D’Or International Airlines had its license revoked on April 1, El Al operated weekday charter flights under its own code and Shabbat and Yom Tom flights under an Arkia or Israir code. In effect, El Al planes and crews were flying as a different Israeli airline. In this way, El Al sought to bypass the grounding of its planes on Shabbat and Yom Tom without enraging Israel’s religious communities or to publicly declare that the national carrier would violate Shabbat.

“We gave El Al several weeks to organize itself and fly with our code, but we have the feeling that they’re trying to trick everybody at the expense of the other airlines,” a senior executive at an Israeli charter airline told Globes. “It’s unacceptable that this trick should become a permanent solution that will hurt us. They have to decide what they want to do. This cannot go on.”

The decision by Israel’s charter airlines not to let El Al use their codes for Shabbat and Yom Tom flights could force El Al to decide between grounding its fleet on Shabbat and losing substantial revenue, or flying on Shabbat and losing haredi patronage.

Following the loss of Sun D’Or’s license, El Al said it would continue its policy of no Shabbat flights, partly in response to threats of haredi boycotts.

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