Gonen Usishkin, El Al's new CEO, once flew as a pilot and is now trying to direct the company away from its financial problems.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli national airline El Al has named Gonen Usishkin as its next CEO.
Usishkin – who is set to begin the job in the coming weeks – replaces David Maimon.
Maimon tendered his resignation
in November amid falling stock prices. He served at the helm of the company for four years, but during the past six months, El Al’s stock fell more than 50%.
Amid the CEO news, El Al’s stock was down 2.4% as of closing time on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Monday.
“I am thankful for being chosen and for the trust that the board of directors has granted me,” Usishkin said in a statement.
“I am certain that together with all of our dedicated employees, we will continue to guide El Al through the challenges facing it, on behalf of the company’s customers and shareholders.”
In 2016, Usishkin was named El Al’s vice president of trade. Before that, he worked as head of strategy and business development, where he helped the airline acquire its topnotch 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. He’s been at the company since 2004, where he worked as a pilot flying 747s.
The incoming CEO has a Bachelor’s degree in economics and management, and an MBA from Tel Aviv University. He also served as a combat pilot in the Israel Air Force.
Usishkin is expected to take up his post in the coming weeks after an orderly overlap and preparations for the job with Maimon.
El Al, Israel’s flag carrier, is facing tough times, as the company has been steadily losing market share at its main hub, Ben-Gurion Airport. That is partly due to deregulation and the “Open Skies” agreement, which opened up greater competition from European and international carriers.
According to data from the Israel Airports Authority, El Al carried around a quarter of all passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport during Fall 2017. The company is likely not to have achieved 30% market share in 2017 – for the first time in recent history – jeopardizing the reduced fees and benefits it gets from the IAA.
It is unclear how Usishkin will revive the El Al’s flagging prospects, along with nudging it towards a “transfer hub” model. Many airlines now offer transit services, where you fly non-direct through a hub. That has proven to be a major money-maker.
But for security and logistical complications, El Al hasn’t turned Ben-Gurion into a transfer venue, and today only a few thousand passengers annually transfer through the airport.
At the time, Israeli media reported that Maimon may have been pushed out amid turbulent negotiations with the pilots union.
El Al’s has been operating since 1948 and the airline has grown to serve more than 50 destinations around the world. The company has a market value of NIS 750 million ($218m.).
The airliner announced earlier this month that it would soon commence direct flights to San Francisco and Silicon Valley from Tel Aviv.