Israeli airlines must be smart and benefit from Open Skies deal

The approach taken by Israeli airlines towards the Open Skies agreement with Europe was a big mistake. 

The agreement was signed in Luxembourg a few days ago and now the implementation begins. 

The big question is whether the three Israeli airlines – EL AL, Arkia and Israir – will whine every time a European airline opens a new route to Israel or act smart and try to benefit from the new situation.

Two months after the Israeli airlines went on strike in a last-minute, ill-judged effort to block the Israeli-EU deal, the two sides put the final signatures on the agreement on Monday, paving the way for more direct flights between Israel and EU countries.

Siim Kallas, European Commission vice-president for mobility and transport, said: “Israel is a key partner for the EU and today’s agreement is very important for further strengthening the overall economic, trade and tourism relations between Israel and the EU. 

“We expect to see more direct flights to and from Israel, lower prices, more jobs and economic benefits on both sides.”

When the agreement comes into full effect in 2018, EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights to Israel from anywhere in the EU, and Israeli carriers will be able to operate flights to airports throughout the EU.

“The EU-Israel air transport market will be opened gradually over the next five years, so that by 2018 the market will be fully open with no restrictions on the number of flights,” the EU said.

The agreement is expected to encourage an increase in direct connections, which could drive down prices. 

Under the agreement, according to the EU, Israel will “implement regulatory requirements and standards equivalent to EU aviation rules in areas such as aviation safety, environment, consumer protection, including passenger rights, air traffic management, economic regulation, competition issues and social aspects”.

The outcome of the Israeli airlines’ strike was an increase in government funding of the security measures taken by the three airlines. 

This was funny as the increase was promised before, with no connection to the air agreement. The increase was actually a ladder that allowed the three airlines to step down from the high tree they had climbed.

So, now the three airlines will have to prove that they are not only whining, but know how to adapt to the new situation. 

There are many ways to do it, but the issues should be addressed with a clear mind and not with emotions, as happened until recently.

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