El Al can – and must – change the “gloomy future” instead of complaining

Israeli airline El Al sees the upcoming European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) agreement between Israel and the EU in apocalyptic terms. The airline has become a “serial complainer” in recent years. First, it was the fact that it is not accepted into any of the aviation alliances, and now it is complaining about the European agreement.

Instead of trying to change a few basic things, El Al is whining at every opportunity. The airline is not accepted by any of the alliances mainly because it only operates for five-and-a-half days per week. This historical restriction was applied many years ago, when El Al was still state-owned. The influence of religious parties in the government coalition created that strange situation. The problem is that after El Al was privatised, it did not make any effort to change the situation.

El Al foresees a gloomy future after the agreement with Europe is signed. Many European airlines will be permitted to fly to Israel from many destinations, and that frightens the airline. El Al will also have full freedom to fly all over Europe, but still it portrays the coming years in very dark terms.

The alliances membership problem is a heavy one. The open skies agreement with Europe might require more effort from El Al, but it will also receive some meaningful help from the Israeli government.

In preparation for the signing of the ECAA, the Israeli government is moving towards covering the full security budget of Israeli airlines.

While the agreement will enable the country’s airlines – El Al, Arkia and Israir – to fly to European destinations, depending only on free airport slots, it will increase security expenditure, mainly on flights with one stop on the way to the final destination.

In preparation for that, the Israeli government increased its participation in the security budget of the airlines to 65% in 2011, to 70% in 2012, and will raise it to 75% when the agreement is signed. And when implantation begins, it will increase this contribution to 80%.

Industry sources say that when the agreement is fully implemented, the government will have to cover all security expenditure for the Israeli airlines.

So funding the security arrangements will be a much smaller problem or no problem at all for the airlines themselves. El Al will then be able to find the resources to solve some of its more fundamental problems – flying seven days a week, for example, and consequently being more competitive – which could pave the way to joining one of the alliances.

Complaining will not solve any of its problems. Bold decisions might.


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