The Israeli ministry of transport has begun to implement its deregulation policy, with routes being transferred from flag carrier El Al to thecountry's two private airlines Arkia and Israir.

Ephraim Sne, the Israeli minister of transport, announced last week that Arkia, Israel's largest charter airline, will become the sole designated carrier on the route to Copenhagen. Meanwhile Israir, the country's second charter carrier, has been designated the sole Israeli carrier on the route to Riga, Latvia. A ministry of transport source says that the designation of the two private carriers on the ex-El Al routes, "is only the beginning".

At the same time, the minister has refused permission for Israir to operate charter flights during its summer season to the main US destinations served by El Al - New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. Israir has been permitted to operate three flights a week to other US points.

Israir has also been cleared to wet-lease a Boeing 747-200 for the transatlantic routes, despite fierce opposition from the Israeli pilots association. "I allowed the wet-lease because there are not enough Israeli pilots to fly these aircraft," says the minister.

Meanwhile, the codeshare agreements that El Al has with some European airlines and one US carrier has upset Israeli passengers due to concerns that security on foreign carriers is not what they expect, and some are considering suing the Israeli airline. " We can not expect our partners to conduct the same security standards we have," says El Al's head of marketing Avi Schwartz.

Source: Flight International