The low-cost flight market is heating up: easyJet plans to introduce a new route from Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris starting in summer 2014, offering six weekly flights.
This will be the ninth route operated by the British airline to and from Israel, and it joins four new routes launched in the past few months to Rome, Berlin, Milan and Gatwick Airport near London. The company also offers flights to Tel Aviv from Basel, Geneva, Manchester and London Luton Airport.
easyJet said in a statement that the new routes are the direct result of the Open Skies agreement signed between Israel and the European Union. According to the company’s UK and Middle East Commercial Manager Hugh Aitken, easyJet plans to expand its activity from Israel to any destination offering financial profitability.
Indeed, there appears to be a flood of new routes launched by low-cost European countries, as well as additional flights offered by traditional regular airlines like Lufthansa and Alitalia.
In July, Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air announced new routes from Israel to Vilnius (two weekly flights), Katowice (three flights) and Cluj-Napoca (two flights); in September, easyJet announced a new route to Rome with two weekly flights; and in late November, El Al launched its low-cost UP brand, offering flights to five destinations in Europe: Berlin, Larnaca, Kiev, Prague and Budapest.
And that’s not all. In the past month easyJet launched a new route to London Gatwick Airport and a route to Milan (three weekly flights each), Lufthansa added three weekly flights to Munich and three flights to Frankfurt, Wizz Air introduced a route to Sofia (three flights) and Alitalia added three weekly flights to Rome.
Why is this happening? For several reasons:
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Director Giora Romm, who oversaw the signing of the Open Skies agreement between Israel and the EU, says that “the agreement is based on stages, and so from the moment of the signing the number of flights between Israel and EU countries can be increased.
“As for major destinations like London and Paris, up to seven weekly flights can be added at this stage. As for flights to new destinations, a large number of flights can be added and so companies are already announcing new routes for the summer of 2014.”
According to Romm, European destinations will see an addition of 43 flights this summer, a 10% increase.
Israir CEO Uri Sirkis believes that Israeli airlines will be forced to merge in order to survive. “The reform is eroding the income per passenger. Companies will have to make ownership changes, merge or disappear. It’s safe to assume that we will see mergers between companies in Israel.”
The Open Skies agreement, he says, offers a great advantage for consumers, but a smaller advantage for Israeli companies.
Asked how the low-cost airlines affect Israir’s activity, Sirkis says the company is reducing the number of flights to Rome and Berlin and will offer flights to Stuttgart and Munich instead for Black Forest visitors.
“At the same time, we will move to destinations with less competition, like Lisbon and Tbilisi, and in the summer will have special offers for families to fly to Amsterdam and return from Paris, or the other way around.”
Alitalia, Italy’s national airline, plans to add three weekly flights on its Tel Aviv-Rome route starting in April, bringing the number of its weekly flights between Israel and Italy to 29.
The flights will be added on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. They will leave Rome at 9:30 am and Tel Aviv at 3:50 pm.
According to recent reports, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is in early-stage talks over a possible €300 million ($413 million) investment in Alitalia, which could help rescue the loss-making Italian airline.
Meanwhile, Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air announced its plan to add another route from Israel to Europe. The new route, to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, will be launched on May 14, 2014.
The first direct flight, which will operate four days a week, began on Sunday from Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport to Tel Aviv’s David Ben-Gurion airport on a new Airbus A319. Attending the promotional flight was Serbian Parliament Speaker Nebojsa Stefanovic, Minister of Regional Development and Local Self-Government Igor Mirovic, Israeli Ambassador to Serbia Yossef Levy, and Air Serbia CEO Danny Kondic.
After landing in Tel Aviv, Stefanovic said that he hopes “that this direct route will boost the tourism of the two countries,” the Tanjug News Agency reported.
Relations between Serbia and Israel have grown steadily recently. Earlier this year, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic made his first state visit to Israel.
Israel will participate in a regional aviation initiative according to an agreement signed Thursday in a meeting of the joint Israeli and European Community committee on the Open Skies pact.
The Blue-Med Functional Airspace Block (FAB) project aims at establishing a framework for the efficient and safe sharing of airspace over the Mediterranean Sea basin.
The joint committee, which was set up for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the Open Skies treaty, convened in Tel Aviv for its first biannual meeting since the signing of the Open Skies agreement six months ago. The European delegation was headed by Siim Kallas, EU vice-president and transport commissioner. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz headed the Israeli side.
A dispute erupted when the Israeli team decided unilaterally to eject observers from the Israel Airline Pilots Association and Israeli airline companies from the meeting, and asked the EU to follow suit. The EU responded by protesting the move.
“The pilots association and airlines weren’t removed from their status of observers at the meeting,” claimed Katz in response. “The meeting is a working session between two governments, Israel and the EU, and isn’t any different than other working sessions where observers also aren’t present.”
The Open Skies treaty is already boosting airline traffic between Israel and Europe.
Lufthansa said yesterday it is adding six weekly flights between Israel and Germany starting in March 2014, three to Frankfurt and three to Munich, raising the company’s total number of weekly flights out of Ben-Gurion International Airport to 27. Air Berlin said yesterday it will add five weekly flights to its routes between Israel and Germany starting in April, bringing its weekly total to 17 flights. Low-cost operator EasyJet also said it’s inaugurating a new route between Tel Aviv and Milan starting March, with four weekly flights between the two cities.
The Alma Lounge restaurant in Tel Aviv’s Alma Hotel has won the Culinary Excellence Award at the 2013 World Boutique Hotel Awards ceremony.
The restaurant offers a unique menu created by chef Yonatan Roshfeld and is owned by businesspeople Adi and Irit Strauss.
According to the Boutique Hotel Awards website, “Alma Lounge offers bohemian chic décor that remains as interesting and appealing as the food.”
The only Israeli hotel to make it to the list of finalists, Alma competed for the title against six boutique hotels from around the world.
Air Canada will be the first airline to introduce the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner plane on regular flights to Israel. The company has announced its plan to operate the plane on its flights from Toronto to Israel starting this July, when it will replace the Boeing 767 plane which has been operating on the route in recent years.
According to Air Canada’s director-general in Israel, Ruth Ben-Tzur, “The company has chosen Israel to be the first country to which it will operate the plane on long haul flights as a demonstration of trust in the Israel route.”
A ceremony will be held at Ben-Gurion Airport upon the plane’s arrival in Israel on July 2 to launch the route’s upgrade.
The plane will be operated on the route to Israel seven days a week. The flights from Toronto to Tel Aviv will leave at 6:30 pm and land in Ben-Gurion Airport at 12:05 pm the next day. The flights from Israel will leave at 1:55 pm and land in Canada at 6:50 pm.
The plan has three classes, 20 seats in business class, 21 seats in premium economy class and another 201 seats in economy class. The plane features innovative lighting and an air conditioning system which induces a feeling of humidity to ease breathing.
The plane is fuel efficient and reduces pollution levels, it has quiet engines and is made of light material: The plane was built from composite materials which have significantly reduced its weight and allow it to reach 6,500 to 16,000 kilometers while using 20% less fuel compared to the Boeing 767 plane it is replacing.
The innovative plane is equipped with two Rolls-Royce or General Electric engines and was built with a green vision. The quiet engines allow it to fly from airports which shut down at night for noisy planes.