After Israeli airline EL AL understood that it had lost the war it waged against the country’s open skies agreement with Europe, it began to get ready for the new reality.
Yesterday, the airline put into action its major tool for dealing with the harsh new reality. An EL AL Boeing 737-800 painted in the UP livery of its new low-cost brand took off from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to Berlin.
EL AL says it has sold 180,000 tickets since its official announcement on the new low-cost brand.
The UP low-cost arm will operate up to 12 weekly flights to Berlin, up to 11 weekly flights to Prague, up to 11 weekly flights to Kiev, up to 12 weekly flights to Budapest and up to six weekly flights to Larnaca.
As with all low-cost carriers, the price of the ticket is stripped down, with an extra fee incurred for any additional services such as seat selection.
EL AL is not operating in a vacuum and only last week, EasyJet announced its sixth route to and from Tel Aviv with a new Berlin flight. Wizz Air and Air Mediterranee also operate services on the route, with Ryanair still evaluating it.
The launch of EL AL’s low-cost brand with four 737-800s is one step in the right direction, but it will not be enough. The Israeli airline has nearly 900 redundant employees and has a bigger problem – it does not fly on the Jewish Shabbat. This grounding of the fleet on Saturdays, including the 737s with the new UP logo, will continue to be a heavy burden on the airline.