El Al ups pressure to curb competition

El Al has held a monopoly among Israeli carriers on flights to New York since it began scheduled flights to the Big Apple in 1952.

el al logo 88 (photo credit: )
el al logo 88
(photo credit: )
In another attempt to curb deregulation of the country's aviation industry, El Al Israel Airlines is urging the government to delay a decision that would allow added competition on the Tel Aviv-New York route until after the government elections. In an urgent letter, El Al, owned by the Borovich family, has asked attorney general Manny Mazoz to prevent Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson from ruling on Israir's request to add a regular flight to New York. "Such an important decision, which will commit coming governments, is improper to be taken during a time of elections," the letter said. Israir and Arkia are awaiting a decision by Hirschson regarding Israir's request to upgrade its charter services to New York into scheduled services, thus competing head on with El Al on its most important route. "A delay of the decision will lead to a decrease in the number of tourists coming to Israel in 2006, less competition and much more revenue to El Al," said Sabina Biran, CEO of Israir. El Al has held a monopoly among Israeli carriers on flights to New York since it began scheduled flights to the Big Apple in 1952. Israir, which flies three times a week to New York, has accused El Al of attempting to undermine Israir's charter flights to New York and demanded a permit that would allow it to offer regular flights to the lucrative destination. Only El Al and Continental Airlines have regularly scheduled non-stop flights from Israel to the New York area. "We are dealing here with the open sky policy of the state of Israel and not the closed sky of the Borovich family. We are convinced that threats will not influence the government to act in the best interest of the citizen and what is best for the tourism traffic," said Israir in response to El Al's letter. Following the privatization of El Al in December 2004 and as tourist numbers have increased, the open skies policy, which sets the capacity and frequency boundaries to which airlines can fly to the country, has been a controversial subject. Separately, El Al announced on Tuesday that it would add 13 flights to existing routes during the winter season. The carrier is adding two weekly flights each to New York, Madrid and Berlin; three weekly flights to Paris; and four weekly flights to Moscow. This comes at a time when foreign airlines such as Lufthansa have been blocked from adding flight frequency to Germany until the beginning of April - the end of the winter season. Despite years of trying to block Austrian Airlines growth in Israel, El Al is in talks to form a code sharing agreement with Austrian Airlines in connection with the possible cancellation of its agreement with Swiss Airlines, industry sources informed The Jerusalem Post.