EL AL’s surprise move fuels clash between senior figures

It is a very strange situation. The president of EL AL decided to cancel the airline’s daytime flights from Ben Gurion airport to Eilat in southern Israel. He claimed that the new visual direct final approach pattern was not safe.

The new pattern, a result of “security considerations”, was announced by Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority (IAA).

While EL AL claims that the new approach pattern to Eilat airport is not safe, the two other Israeli airlines, Arkia and Israir, are continuing to fly to Eilat with ATR-72s but also with Boeing 757s and Airbus A-320s.

The surprising move by EL AL created some speculation that added fuel to the clash between retired General Elyezer Shkedy, EL AL’s president, and retired General Giora Romm, director of the IAA. Both served in the Israeli air force.

The Arkia and Israir flights to Eilat continue. The managements keep silent, but the head of Arkia’s workers’ union on Wednesday, in a letter to the minister of transport, was very direct, saying: “but you and I and many others in the sector know that the main reason EL AL has stopped flights is profitability”.

Some years ago, EL AL surprised the industry by its decision to operate domestic flights to Eilat. EL AL has rejected the claim that the decision was made in “retaliation” against the two other, smaller airlines, which have gained more traffic rights to international destinations served by EL AL.

EL AL continuously has claimed that the domestic route to Eilat is profitable.

Aviation experts could not explain the decision by EL AL, but all agreed that it is “strange”.

Asaf Agmon, head of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, said on Wednesday that there is no reason why the sides involved in the debate cannot find a solution that will enable EL AL to go back to its full schedule.

The saga continues. On Wednesday the IAA announced that it will allow EL AL to use the previous approach pattern for the next two weeks to prevent the disruption of the plans of passengers who hold tickets for daytime flights.

We await the next chapter is this strange clash between two of Israel’s more senior aviation figures.

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