The Israeli version of Ryanair: big plan, big hurdles

The plan is probably in its early stages but what little has been revealed has sent shockwaves through the boardrooms of the Israeli airlines.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said last week in an interview that he plans to establish “an Israeli version of Ryanair”.

He also confirmed that the scale of the airline’s ambition in Israel extends far beyond operating just a few flights to the country.

Ryanair has previously indicated that it wants to fly to Israel, but the extent of its plans reach far beyond.

“We’re actively talking to the Israeli authorities, but the difficulty is that once you go outside Europe you need to have, in this case, an Israeli air operator’s certificate,” O’Leary said in the interview with the Irish Independent newspaper.

“What we’re looking to do in Israel is something much bigger,” said O’Leary.

He said Ryanair wants to have a big base in Israel if the plans come to fruition.

The few very details are the main topic of discussion within management at the three Israeli airlines – El Al, Arkia and Israir Airlines.

To establish what O’Leary plans will require getting an air operator’s certificate, according to Israeli regulations. The most sensible way to do it would be to gain control of one of the Israeli airlines – and the potential candidates are Arkia and Israir.

If Ryanair were to make such a move, the new carrier would have to operate according to Israeli regulations and realities that do not necessarily fit with the operations of the low-cost carrier.

Michael Weinstein, an Israeli aviation expert, says that if Rynair were to operate from an Israeli base, it would have to comply with Israeli aviation security measures, complicating the quick turnaround pattern Rynair is using and adding costs. In addition, he says, the Israeli regulations prohibit the advertisement of a “naked” tariff, without all the taxes included at the point of payment.

“Israel has one international airport and that makes the slot issue a very severe one, especially with the strict night curfew at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport,” says Weinstein.

Another issue is the salaries Israeli pilots earn. “These are far higher that what pilots of low-cost airlines pilots in Europe are paid,” Weinstein says, adding that these are only a few of the obstacles Ryanair might face in implementing O’Leary’s plan.

The Israeli airlines are not the only ones trying to get as much information as possible about O’Leary’s plans. The open-skies agreement between Israel and Europe has created an unprecedented war on the routes and a Ryanair base in Tel Aviv could well intensify that fighting.

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