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El Al Israel Airlines petitioned the High Court on Sunday to overturn the Tourism Ministry's recent ruling to grant Israir scheduled flights to New York.
El Al is seeking a court ruling that the ministry's decision was without legal basis and further requested that the court put a temporary suspension on its implementation until the court has ruled on the matter.
"Our turning to the High Court is designed to prevent the gross violation of the obligations made to El Al, its management and workers on the eve of the [airline's] privatization," El Al said in a statement.
In response, Israir lashed out at El Al saying the court petition was "a continuation of El Al's inappropriate attempt to block competition, in order to protect its monopoly on the New York route, at the expense of the Israeli economy and the consumer."
Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson's decision earlier this month to give Israir designated carrier status for two years on flights to the Big Apple, overturned a commitment made by the government in May 2003, before the privatization of El Al, to delay adding an extra carrier to scheduled routes until air passenger traffic rises to 10.7 million annually. Last year saw 8.5 million passengers pass through Ben Gurion Airport.
El Al said in its petition that the conditions set forth had not yet been fulfilled and that the considerations brought forward by the Tourism Ministry were "factually and economically incorrect."
The respondents to the petition were Minister Hirschson, the Transportation Ministry, the Civil Aviations Authority, the Government Companies Authority, the Israeli Government and Israir.
Israir has been operating the route through the summer with three to four flights per week, which will extend to daily flights when it upgrades its status in the summer.
The New York route, for a long period of time, has been El Al's most profitable as it enjoyed well over 50 percent market share on the destination. Until the Israir decision, the airline only faced competition from Continental Airlines in the direct route and various European companies, which offer connecting flights to the popular destination.
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