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Israir is fighting back against El Al's new route to Eilat. Israir, part of Nochi Dankner's IDB group, wants to fly its recently acquired Airbus A-320 between Eilat and Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airport.

El Al will begin flying to Eilat on August 1, out of Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israir will take delivery of the $40-million aircraft today, directly from Airbus, becoming the first Israeli carrier to operate Airbus aircraft. The A-320 has 174 passenger seats and will compete against El Al's smaller 737s, which hold only 136 passengers.

But Israir has not received approval from the Israel Civil Aviation Authority to use the new plane on the Eilat route.

The A-320 would be the largest plane ever to operate from Sde Dov. The agency must address safety issues involved in flying an aircraft of this size out of Sde Dov as well as concerns about noise and air pollution.

Arkia Airlines, meanwhile, flies 95-seat Embraer passenger aircraft between Sde Dov and Eilat.