A PLANE at Ben-Gurion International Airport..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
South American LATAM Airlines is scheduled to begin direct flights from Tel Aviv to São Paulo, Brazil, in December, the Tourism Ministry announced last week.
LATAM will become the only airlines to operate direct flights between Israel and South America, with a flight taking off from Santiago, Chile, before making a stopover in São Paulo before flying direct to Tel Aviv.
“The opening of a direct route from Brazil to Israel is a significant accomplishment and a product of policies aimed at opening up new tourism markets to Israel,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in making the announcement. “The new route will significantly strengthen the flow of tourist traffic coming from this region to Israel. The flights will also shorten the travel time for thousands of Israeli travelers visiting South American countries.”
The first flight will depart on December 12, with three flights each week from Santiago via São Paulo to Tel Aviv on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Flights from Israel to São Paolo – and from there to Santiago – will depart from Ben-Gurion Airport on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The flight duration will be around 11 hours.
It was still not possible to book a seat for the inaugural flight on the company’s website as of press time.
The first two months of 2018 have already seen a 90% increase in the number of Brazilian tourists entering Israel, as compared to the same period in 2016.
National flag carrier El Al previously operated direct flights to São Paulo from 2009 to 2011, but the airlines canceled the route due to the high cost of jet fuel at the time.
“For people who have money and who want to go to Latin America, this will make it easier,” said Noam Pinko, an aviation-industry analyst with Psagot Investment House, adding that the stereotypical 20-something backpacker won’t be taking this route.
Plane landing safely
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“For the young people after the army, they’re looking for the cheapest flights. So they will probably still go for connections... they’ll take one of the European airlines and stop in Europe, and then they fly from there to Brazil.”
The Tourism Ministry reportedly gave a €750,000 grant to LATAM to inaugurate the flight connection – part of a program to encourage more airliners to service the Jewish state.
“No other airliner connects Latin America [to Israel],” LATAM Brazil CEO Jerome Cadier said in the announcement. “Tourists from Brazil, Argentina and Chile, for example, will now be able to reach Israel easily thanks to the new line.”
On average, a Brazilian tourist stays in Israel for 10 nights, spending around $1,900, according to a Tourism Ministry survey from 2017. Nearly two-thirds of Brazilian tourists identified as Christian, with a third of them saying they journeyed as pilgrims.
The largest group of Brazilian tourists were between the ages of 45 and 54, and their most popular destinations were Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea.
Some 54,800 Brazilian tourists visited Israel in 2017.
LATAM was founded in 2012 as part of the Oneworld airlines alliance that includes British Airways. The company plans on tapping into its network to offer connecting flights throughout Latin America.
The carrier was formed from a merger between the Chilean LAN Airlines and the Brazilian TAM. It operates in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru. In 2016, Qatar Airways purchased a 10% stake in LATAM.
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