NEW YORK – April 22, 2013 – In view of the government’s decision to approve the Open Skies Policy with the European Union, which directly affects EL AL and the other Israeli airlines, it is important to provide some background information which has resulted in a strike called by the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel).
The approval of this agreement is placing Israeli aviation in unfair competition with European carriers and is weakening the ability to compete equally. Only when the government resolves these issues can EL AL and the other Israeli carriers compete fairly within the framework of the Open Skies Policy.
First and foremost, EL AL is not against the open skies agreement as we have been competing with other airlines for almost 65 years. By no means is EL AL a monopoly. Over the years, competition has grown tremendously so that today dozens of airlines take off and land in Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport. We are open to accept this additional competition as we strive to provide the best possible service and value for the loyalty of all our passengers.
Most carriers flying to Israel are part of a large international airline alliance. EL AL has been trying to become a member, but for obvious political reasons, has not been accepted. The fact that we are not able to join an alliance severely restricts our global operations and destinations served. An airline alliance can be compared to having one airline with thousands of aircraft, whereby all Israeli carriers (including EL AL) have a combined total of less than 50 aircraft.
In addition, the anti-trust laws in Israel are much stricter than in European countries, making it almost impossible for EL AL to maintain codeshare agreements with the same flexibility enjoyed by European carriers.
Another request is to have fair competition and reciprocity between Israel and other airlines in the European Union, which can presently land at Ben Gurion Airport with no restrictions. However, due to security limits imposed by the government of Israel, the destinations served by EL AL are limited. For example, EL AL no longer flies to Istanbul, Turkey, yet Turkish carriers operate over 50 flights a week to Israel.
Every year, EL AL absorbs close to $30 million relating to security expenses, which is in compliance with the requirements of the Israeli government. In other countries, security costs are covered by the government. No foreign carrier bears such an expense. EL AL is requesting that the Israeli government fund the full cost of security. An example is that in the USA, the TSA is a federal government agency which bears this financial responsibility.
We believe it is the responsibility of the government of Israel to resolve these obstacles before enforcing the Open Skies Policy.