The CEOs of Israel's three airlines are planning to meet with the head of the Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday in yet another attempt to sway the state before it signs an open-skies agreement with the European Union. The final round of talks with the EU is scheduled to begin on March 20.
Two weeks ago, the CEOs - Eliezer Shkedi of El Al, Gadi Tepper of Arkia and Uri Sirkis of Israir - met with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. After that meeting, Katz ordered CAA head Giora Rom not to sign anything until it was clear the Israeli companies would not be hurt. His goal was both to lower prices through an open-skies agreement while insuring that the Israeli companies were protected, he said.
An open-skies treaty would allow European airlines compete freely with Israel's local carriers on routes in and out of Ben-Gurion International Airport, and would likewise let Israeli airlines compete with European carriers over destinations in Europe.
The Israeli airlines say the European representatives prepared a draft agreement in advance that states that Israel and the EU have agreed on issues that the local airlines still have objections over, including flight volume and time slots. The document, written in past tense, states that talks finish on March 22 and that the representatives have agreed on the deal.
The Israeli airlines have requested permission to cooperate in order to better counter European competition. Rom is expected to tell the CEOs where the Transportation Ministry's talks with the Israel Antitrust Authority stand on this issue.
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