El Al Airlines CEO Dina Ben-Tal Ganancia announced yesterday that the airline intends to launch direct flights from Israel to Melbourne and Tokyo.
Speaking at the Google tourism conference in Tel Aviv, she said this move follows the recent Saudi decision to open its airspace to all aircraft flying to and from Israel, with no exceptions. This has, in turn, opened a window of opportunity for Israeli airlines traveling to eastern destinations.
Flights from Tel Aviv to Melbourne could take only 15 hours, according to Ben-Tal Ganancia, more than two fewer hours than it takes now.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, El Al had also planned to open direct flights to Japan, which have until now been shelved. The re-establishment of these routes could mean a significant uptick in Japanese-Israeli tourism.
Digitization of El Al
If these flight routes take effect, El Al would be the only airline to operate them. Following the news of the airspace opening, other Israeli airlines Arkia and Israir submitted requests to operate over Saudi airspace as well, though there has been little news regarding these carriers’ plans for new or altered routes.
Ganancia went on to elaborate her belief that digitization will soon reinvent the airline’s business. According to Globes, today roughly 35% of tickets are sold via the Internet and El Al’s app, with another 15% of digital bookings being made by travel agents. El Al’s expectation is that within the next five years, 80% of ticket sales will be processed via digital channels.
The CEO said that the airline has held meetings with its digital developers to “ensure that they are following the entire digital transformation. We will reach a world in which everything is done by means of applications, including boarding notices, where luggage is located and notices regarding upgrades to flight tickets.”
Saudi Arabia’s decision to open its airspace to Israeli aircraft was announced by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during US President Joe Biden’s latest trip to Israel. Sullivan gave credit to the president for the Saudi move.
“This decision is the result of diplomatic activity of the president,” he said, noting that it “paves the way for more stability and security in the Middle East region, which is critical for the people of the US, and the security and prosperity of Israel.”