Sun sets over Sundor – the end of a virtual airline

The Israeli Civil Aviation Authority will not allow the operation of “virtual airlines”. This decision actually puts the lid on Sundor, the charter subsidiary of El Al. This places El Al in a very awkward position. It has lost its charter operation that could fly on the Jewish Sabbath. And the open skies agreement with Europe is looming, with unprecedented competition.

As part of a tough policy aimed at, among other things, regaining Israel’s category 1 status, the CAA said that unless Sundor is being reconstructed as an airline with all necessary requirements, it will not be allowed to resume operations.

Last April, the CAA revoked Sundor’s operational licence after a routine check discovered that it had never been certified via a “full process”.

Since this step was taken, Sundor passengers holding valid tickets have been flown using alternative flights.

The subsidiary was originally created under the name El Al Charter Services in 1977, becoming Sundor in 1981.

It was formed to allow some of El Al’s flights to be made on the Jewish Sabbath. These flights were stopped many years ago because of a political coalition situation that gave power to religious parties, and were not resumed later. Sundor operated using aircraft and crew that were part of the El Al fleet.

Giora Romm, director general of the CAA, said on 11 January: “An airline cannot only look like one, but should operate according to all the regulations. We will not accept any shortcuts. If El Al wants a subsidiary, it should be an airline with the full meaning of this word.”

Sources said that El Al is not ready to invest in making Sundor an airline, and it will therefore not hold a charter subsidiary “in the foreseeable future”.

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