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El Al May Stop Operating Flights for Immigrants

JERUSALEM — El Al may stop flying immigrants to Israel from certain destinations after it is privatized, sources in the World Zionist Organization said.

In a recent closed meeting of the WZO’s financial committee in Jerusalem, participants said with the takeover of El Al by Arkia, a privately owned Israeli airline, it may stop unprofitable flights, making it more difficult for new immigrants to fly to Israel from certain places.

Committee member Martin Stern cited the Copenhagen-Tel Aviv route as an example. After Arkia took over the route from El Al, it did not operate flights on it regularly, hampering the flights of new immigrants from Scandinavia.

Stern complained about this to Israel’s acting Civil Aviation Administration head, Arik Ben-Ari, and asked why he didn’t enforce the law and take steps against Arkia for not maintaining the regular route from Copenhagen.

Arkia’s international commerce and traffic director Avi Ben-Hur replied that “Arkia gladly received the Copenhagen line with the intention of operating it regularly all year long. We invested considerable funds and resources in developing and advertising the line but due to Israel’s security situation, we failed to create the expected demand from both Scandinavia and Israel in most months of the year, except for the summer months June to September, during which we operated two weekly flights.”

He added that Arkia operates flights to supply the demand on holidays, even at a loss. “However, when the flights are less than 20 % full there is no economic reason to operate them,” he said. Arkia declined to comment.

Participants at the WZO meeting also discussed the possibility that the organization, which had shares in El Al until the privatization and used to get reduced fares to fly new immigrants, might not get such attractive prices when the airline bases fares on purely commercial considerations.

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