Direct flights from Tel Aviv to Tokyo to begin in March

El AL flights expected to lead to boon in tourists, business and investments from Japan.

May 30, 2019 03:59
2 minute read.
Direct flights from Tel Aviv to Tokyo to begin in March

An Israeli flag is seen on the first of Israel's El Al Airlines order of 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets, as it lands at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

El Al announced that it will launch a direct line from Tel Aviv to Tokyo in March, a move immediately hailed by the Foreign Ministry and expected to be a vehicle leading to a further flourishing of Israeli-Japanese ties.

“The importance of a direct air link between countries is basic, it brings the countries closer together and will enable bringing an increasing number of tourists to Israel, which is important, and also increase the number of investors who will arrive,” said Yaffa Ben-Ari, Israel’s ambassador in Tokyo, in a telephone interview.

Ben-Ari said that currently it takes between 20 and 24 hours to fly from Tokyo to Tel Aviv, and that direct flights will cut that time nearly in half. For businessmen who want to come to Israel for just 24 or 36 hours, a 24-hour, multi-stop flight often prevents them from making the trip. However an expected 12-hour direct flight time – about the flight time from Tel Aviv to New York – is a different story altogether.

This will be the first direct air-link between the two countries.

Ben-Ari said that over the last few years there has been a marked interest among Japanese businesspeople in Israel, with the total amount of Japanese investment in the Jewish state now estimated at some $6 billion dollars. Investment rose from $40 million in 2016 to some $190 the next year, only to fall to $92 million in 2018.

Trade between the two countries topped $3.2 billion last year, a billion dollar increase over the trade figures in 2009.

Ben-Ari said that reciprocal visits by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe served as a catalyst for enhanced interest in the business communities in both countries. Netanyahu visited Japan in 2015, and Abe came here in 2015 and 2018.

The excellent relations between the two men – Netanyahu has put improving ties with Japan as one of his top foreign policy objectives – “has done a great deal to promote the economic ties,” Ben-Ari said.

Japanese companies are also believed to be less deterred than in the past by a fear that doing business with Israel will hurt their business in the Arab world, especially when they look at the booming ties between Israel and China – which has not hurt China’s’ economic ties in the Arab world – and when they consider that a number of Arab countries also now have ties with Israel at various levels.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement welcoming the El Al decision, with Yael Rabia Zadok, the ministry’s deputy director-general for economics, saying that the decision is “wonderful news for the economy and for the diplomatic and economic relations between the two states.”

El Al plans to run three directs flight a week to Tokyo, something that is also expected to significantly increase tourism between the two countries. Last year some 20,000 Japanese tourists came to Israel, believed to be only a drop in the bucket of the potential. An estimated 40,000 Israelis traveled to Japan during the same period. The 20,000 Japanese tourists last year was double the number who visited Israel a decade earlier, in 2009.

The flight to Tokyo is expected to take 11 hours and 15 minutes, with the return flight expected to take 12 hours and 30 minutes. Tokyo is the latest in a list of new destinations for El Al, which includes San Francisco, Orlando, Chicago, Las Vegas, Manchester and Nice.

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