Israir seeks to block El Al's Eilat flights

Israir seeks to block El

Israir Airlines filed a petition before the High Court of Justice on Monday to cancel the transportation minister's decision to allow El Al Israel Airlines flights to Eilat. Israel's third largest carrier after El Al and Arkia said the decision to allow El Al to enter the competition for the No. 1 domestic flight destination was not considered thoroughly and should be reevaluated. In August, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz approved a request by El Al to launch scheduled flights to Eilat from Ben-Gurion Airport. In its petition to the High Court, Israir said the issue of adding an additional carrier to Eilat was not examined systematically and as required by law. "The process was fundamentally flawed and we request a serious and comprehensive reexamination by someone who can look at the issue with a broad view of the implications on the Israeli airline sector," read the airline's petition. "The minister of transportation's decision was made arbitrarily, without taking into consideration all the possible ramifications on the public and the other carriers who operate the line." The petition also said the minister's decision was given without providing reasons or explanations and without consultation with an advisory committee as required by law. The petition argued that a similar request by El Al was denied by the Civil Aviation Authority in April 2009 over concerns a third carrier on the route would cause financial harm to Arkia and Israir. Israir requested that the issue be taken up by a different minister, because it considers Katz to be committed to allowing El Al to operate the line and not open to reconsidering his decision. The ministry said it would continue to advance its policy of liberalizing the airline industry in order to encourage competition that will improve service and lower prices. "The consideration facing the transportation minister is the benefit to Israeli citizens, and we will respect any decision handed down by the Supreme Court," Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadiah said. Currently, 20 scheduled daily flights operate on the route, carrying one million passengers a year. El Al said it hoped to launch flights on the route this winter. "The liberalization of the aviation market... is expected to bring down flight prices and help increase Eilat's exposure as a tourist destination," Katz said in August.