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Delta Airlines is providing an incentive to Israeli travel agents in the form of a higher-than-usual commission, as part of measures slated to encourage ticket sales on its flight to the United States. The airline is paying travel agents a 9-percent commission, in contrast to the 7 percent paid by its rivals on the U.S. routes such as national carrier El Al, TheMarker has learned.

In addition, Delta plans to pay higher bonuses to agencies that meet particularly high sales targets for its airline tickets.

The U.S. company launched a route from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Atlanta on March 28, and is also competing on the Tel Aviv-Newark route with El Al and Continental Airlines, as well as with European airlines that offer flights from their European hubs to U.S. destinations.

Delta Israel CEO Esti Hershkovitz declined to comment on the rate of commission the U.S. airline is paying travel agents in Israel, saying it is a commercial matter.

Also yesterday, TheMarker learned that Israir has tried to attract pilots from rival Arkia after launching its regular route to New York at the beginning of the month.

In order to convince the pilots, Israir promised to preserve the seniority they had accrued at Arkia, ensuring their career track in advance. This is an unusual step, as pilots who switch from airline to airline usually start the promotion track from the beginning.

The move was endorsed by the Israir pilots union, which apparently recognizes the importance of hiring experienced pilots. At the time, it was not known how many Arkia pilots accepted offers from Israir.

In addition, a fairly large number of Arkia flight attendants have jumped ship to Israir. Ten of Arkia's 80 flight attendants preferred Israir terms, which include payment for hours of work, instead of Arkia's payment for hours in the air. This means that Arkia flight attendants are not paid for layover hours between flights.

Israir stated in response that the company "did not try to tempt Arkia pilots. Israir has published a number of help wanted ads in recent months."