El Al has selected the Airbus A319 over the Boeing Next Generation 737 for its short-haul needs, but hurdles must be overcome before it can finalise an order with the European consortium.

El Al has been evaluating the A319/A320 and the 737-700/800 to meet its need for new 125- to 150-seat aircraft for European flights. This is part of a new strategy by the Israeli national airline to minimise indirect flights to European destinations. It plans an order for five aircraft for delivery from 1999. They will replace a mix of El Al's Boeing 737-200s, 757s and 767-200s.

The final decision will depend on price and delivery dates and whether the USA puts pressure on the airline to continue to operate an all-Boeing fleet. The USA provides Israel with some $3 billion of economic and defence support annually, and has used this before in efforts to block plans by El Al to purchase non-US-built aircraft.

Source: Flight International