The American carrier U.S. Airways is commencing service between the United States and Israel. Today it inaugurates a regular line, flying nonstop between Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport and Philadelphia.

The airline will be flying Airbus 330 jets. The line between Philadephia and Tel Aviv will be one of the longest that U.S. Airways flies, more than 9,000 kilometers.

A sample price, in coach class, leaving Tel Aviv July 13 and returning from Philadelphia on July 30, costs $1,651 for the round-trip, including taxes. In August, however, the prices will be rising. For instance, a trip on August 8, returning on August 28, will cost $1,700 round-trip.

What's certain is that the arrival of U.S. Airways will intensify competition on direct routes between Israel and the U.S. At present the line is flown by El Al, Delta Airlines and Continental. Several European airlines also fly between Israel and America, with stops in Europe.

U.S. Airways is the fifth biggest airline in the U.S. It is a partner in the aviation chain Star Alliance. The carrier operates out of Philadelphia, which is a major business center and travel hub in its own right: Israelis can catch flights from there to 175 other destinations U.S. Airways reaches in the U.S., Canada, central America and the Caribbean islands.

In honor of the new line, U.S. Airways chairman and CEO Doug Parker will be visiting Israel.

By the way, as the plane lands in Tel Aviv for the first time, it will be greeted with jets of water, as is the custom at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

In other travel sector news, the Israel Association of Travel Agents is being investigated by the Antitrust Authority. The association for its part complains that the trustbuster has been ignoring its complaints over the years of a cartel between carriers.

The Antitrust Authority suspects the travel agents tried to reach illegal understandings with foreign airlines, allowing them to raise prices of tickets online and at their call centers. Not so, say the agents. "The claim that travel agents could affect competition is ludicrous," said a top official at the association.