El Al flights to Eilat resume after cancellations due to safety concerns

El Al flights to Eilat resumed on Thursday after a day of cancellations on Wednesday that resulted from the airline’s concerns over a new landing route.

El Al airplanes (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
El Al airplanes
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
El Al flights to Eilat resumed on Thursday after a day of cancellations on Wednesday that resulted from the airline’s concerns over a new landing route.
El Al on Tuesday decided to cancel its Wednesday flights because the Civil Aviation Authority was changing the procedure for taking off and landing at the Eilat airport.
Explaining that the airline needed to examine the plans thoroughly before adhering to them, the airline said its flights would not run on Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, Civil Aviation Authority manager Giora Romm announced that for the next two weeks, El Al would be allowed to fly its original flight route from Ben-Gurion Airport to Eilat.
The temporary decision, the Transportation Ministry said, was made “purely out of concern for El Al passengers who purchased tickets.”
In response to the Wednesday flight cancellations, Yigal Cohen, chairman of Arkia Airline’s workers committee, wrote a letter slamming both El Al and the Transportation Ministry to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz that day, calling the airline’s claims of safety issues fictitious. In his letter to Katz, Cohen presented the minister with “a professional secret in the aviation industry”: that the most common excuse for “concealing an oversight or an erroneous decision is the excuse of ‘safety considerations.’” This is because the public will never argue against a decision predicated upon security, he said.
“Last night, we followed ‘with concern’ El Al’s announcement that it would stop flights to Eilat due to ‘safety considerations,’” Cohen wrote. “You, I and many in the industry know that the mean reason for El Al’s cessation of flights was a lack of profitability and nothing more.”
In the letter, Cohen made reference to February 2010, when hundreds of Arkia workers demonstrated in front of Katz’s office after a decision was made to enable El Al flights to Eilat in the first place. This decision, he said, boosted competition and forced the local airlines to slash airfares and lose money.
“We recall the hallucinatory arguments heard that the opening of this route would bring strong and active competition in domestic flights, the claim that tens of thousands of tourists will come to Israel in the wake of this ‘historic decision,’ the claim that the City of Eilat will blossom and its economy will prosper,” Cohen said. “Everything turned out to be nonsense.”
In response to the letter, the Transportation Ministry said Katz’s decision to allow daily flights to Eilat from companies in addition to Arkia and Israir led to an increase of about 25 percent in the number of people flying to Eilat and a decrease in ticket prices. Data show that the number of passengers flying both Arkia and Israir also increased as a result of this decision, which enabled a boom in Eilat tourism, the ministry said.
“The Transportation Ministry will continue to promote competition among airlines in favor of the citizens of Israel, who are now benefiting from a greater number of flights to Eilat at lower prices,” the ministry said in a statement.
Also in response to the letter, El Al stressed that its entrance into the Eilat flight market had increased competitiveness in the industry, and it provides an important connection for passengers arriving at Ben- Gurion Airport.
“We call upon the transportation minister to declare ‘open skies’ also on the Eilat route, and we have no doubt that such a declaration would increase the frequency [of flights] to Eilat,” the El Al statement said. In a short period of time, El Al’s market share of the Eilat line grew to 18%, even though it is only allowed to run four flights daily, the company said.
“Notwithstanding, El Al chose to put the safety of its passengers above all other considerations and stop the morning flights to Eilat,” El Al said. “All other statements are a manipulation of the issue.”