BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel (Reuters) - El Al Israel Airlines took delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft on Wednesday in a $1.25 billion investment aimed at renewing its long-range fleet, halting a drop in its market share and winning back business customers.
In all, Israel’s flag carrier will receive 16 787-8 and 787-9 planes — both bought and leased — by 2020. It expects one more 787 by year-end, a total of seven by the end of 2018 and 14 by the end of 2019.
They will initially fly from Tel Aviv to Newark starting on Oct. 17 and then Hong Kong, London and New York’s JFK airport.
El Al was once the go-to airline for most Israelis thanks to the kind of stringent security that equips planes with missile defense systems.
But it has frustrated customers — particularly business travelers — over the past decade with an aging fleet that compares poorly with competitors offering newer jets fitted with the latest in hi-tech entertainment and comfort.
Last week, it reported a 53 percent drop in second-quarter net profit due to higher salary and jet fuel costs. Its market share at Ben Gurion Airport fell to 29.5 percent from 34.2 percent a year ago.
“I am sure (because of) this aircraft, most of our passengers will be back, especially the business segment,” El Al CEO David Maimon told Reuters on Wednesday.
The new aircraft are expected to cut fuel costs by at least 20 percent.