Israel-EU Open Skies Agreement approved but passengers left stranded

The prospect of a government not fulfilling a signed agreement tipped the scale. The Israeli cabinet ratified the Open Skies Agreement with the EU on Sunday.

A few hours prior to the cabinet vote, workers from three Israeli airlines – El Al, Arkia and Israir Airlines – began a strike and thousands of passengers were stranded in Israel and abroad.

When the result of the vote was announced, the  Histadrut, Israel’s main trade union, declared that it would shut down Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday, suspending all flights in and out of the country.

During the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, some 500 airline workers gathered outside the cabinet building in protest, clashing with police.

Most of the protesters could not explain why they oppose the agreement. This is most likely a result of how the three airlines have presented the issue, with many  slogans, none of which are relevant.

Instead of making the right fixes in the Israeli aviation industry, the airlines, backed by the unions, have continued to blame the government for their own problems.

Members of the cabinet insisted that the deal, concluded after years of negotiations, would yield positive results for the country and the economy.

“This is the first decision by the new government aimed at bringing down the cost of living in Israel,” said transportation minister Israel Katz, noting that the agreement would align Israel with European aviation standards on issues such as consumer and environmental protection. The deal would reduce ticket prices, Katz added, while boosting passenger numbers.

Katz criticized the Histadrut’s efforts to block the agreement, saying that El Al had made no efforts to reorganise and become more competitive. “At El Al, there are 40 airplanes and 6,000 workers, whereas Air Berlin has 200 airplanes and 9,000 workers. By this comparison, Air Berlin should have had 30,000 workers,” he said.

He is absolutely right. As stated in Ariel View last week, El Al has taken the easiest way of blaming the world for its problems, instead of making some bold decisions such as laying off 1,000 employees and returning to a seven-day week.

But why bother, when you can blame the government for deciding to join the world aviation market’s new reality?

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