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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Faced with the November start of Tel Aviv-London flights by low-cost carrier Thompson Fly, British Airways announced last week that it is dropping its own prices by 6 percent in economy class, effective immediately. The cut in fares comes two months after Thompson Fly's announcement that it will begin operating non-stop flights between Ben-Gurion Airport and London's Gatwick and Manchester airports on November 1, with one-way tickets as low as $99.
The drop in British Airways fares applies only to economy class tickets for flights between Tel Aviv and London (and not for connecting flights). Sample fares to London now range between $555 and $865 round-trip, down from between $576 and $920. The new prices are now available through the airline's Web site and from travel agents.
Even with the lowered fares, passengers flying with British Airways to London will pay more on average than those traveling on Thompson Fly. Along with El Al, the other traditional airline currently flying non-stop between Tel Aviv and London, British Airways will have to rely on its inclusive ticket prices to stay competitive - they include meals and other services that Thompson Fly tickets don't - and on the fact that it delivers passengers to Heathrow, London's central airport.
El Al welcomes second new 777 of the summer
Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich has an early flight this week - not to catch, but to greet. The cabinet member will be joined by El Al officials and workers at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday morning for the 7:30 arrival of the airline's latest acquisition, a Boeing 777 the airline has dubbed the Kiryat Shmona. Arriving on board the flight will be 10 young residents of the northern border town. The new jet, the second of two 777s to join the El Al fleet this summer, will serve long-haul destinations in Asia and North America.
Swiss Air to increase capacity next year
Citing increased tourism to Israel and growing demand from business travelers, Swiss Air has announced that it will replace the Airbus A-320s it currently flies to Tel Aviv with the wide-bodied A-330 in late March. The change will raise by 22% the number of passengers Swiss will be able to deliver to Israel.
The airline, which was acquired earlier this year by Lufthansa, currently operates night flights from Zurich to Tel Aviv and morning flights in the opposite direction. Together, Lufthansa and Swiss Air will offer 1,100 seats coming in and out of Israel once Swiss ups its capacity.
Air Canada releases holiday ticket prices
With less than a month to go before Rosh Hashana, Air Canada has released fares for the fall holidays. Flights between Tel Aviv and the airline's Toronto hub begin as low as $944, with tickets to Montreal and Vancouver offered for $1,085 and $1,408, respectively. Passengers flying through Toronto to New York, Boston and Washington, DC, for as little as $1,094, while those traveling to Los Angeles and Las Vegas can find tickets starting at $1,327.
In business class, the airline is offering tickets starting at $3,042 (Washington, DC, and Boston) and $3,583 (Los Angeles and San Francisco).
Ticket prices include taxes and other fees and apply to flights departing Tel Aviv between September 2 and 29. Fares are subject to change, airline officials note.
More Israelis traveling outside the country
The number of exit stamps being placed in Israeli passports is up 10% this year, according to figures released last week by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The CBS numbers show that 2.3 million departures were logged by Israeli passport holders - including those who live overseas - between January and the end of July. Some 1.9 million of those departures took place by air - a rise of 9 percent - while departures by land and sea were each up 17 percent over the same period in 2006.
During July, 487,000 Israelis exited the country 531,000 times, with 25,000 of them departing more than once. The country's most frequent travelers continue to be men; though women comprised 48% of all Israelis leaving the country last month, they made up just 28% of those leaving more than once.
A novel Israeli idea: vacationing near home
Eren Gal-Or distinguished himself from his peers in two ways when he finished the army: he did his post-service traveling within Israel, and he wrote a series of books about it. Along with his father, former Osem executive David Gal-Or, the young author recently published Maslulim (Paths), a three-part guidebook offering information and advice about 120 hiking trails within Israel. Accompanied by a map, photos and recommendations about how to make the trips family-friendly, the books - currently available just in Hebrew - are now on store shelves. An accompanying Web site, www.maslulim-israel.co.il, has also been published for those willing to pay for access electronically.