El Al Halts Day Flights to Eilat, Citing Safety Concerns

Decision comes after Civil Aviation Authority refuses to allow the airline to continue flying old flight path.

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El Al is canceling all day flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Eilat starting this Thursday due, to concerns over the safety of the route, the airline said yesterday.

The company has been flying twice a day to Eilat, operating Boeing 737s. These flights will be halted. However, its two night flights on smaller planes operated by domestic airline Israir will continue as usual.

The problem is a dispute with aviation regulators regarding the route of the day flight.

In a statement, El Al claimed that the new flight path required by the Civil Aviation Authority poses significant safety risks.

Domestic airlines Arkia Israel Airlines and Israir have moved to the new flight path. As a result of El Al's refusal to fly the new route, hundreds of passengers who bought flights to Eilat will receive refunds. They can choose to travel to Eilat on buses provided by the airline.

The decision comes barely one week after El Al reinstated regular flights to Eilat, having previously halted them for seven days until the Civil Aviation Authority permitted the airline to reinstate its old flight path. The CAA, after consultation with the defense establishment, had allowed El Al to resume operations on the old flight path for two weeks, until the airline had adjusted to the new flight procedures. On Tuesday, the CAA rejected El Al's request for another extension to continue flying on its original flight path to Eilat, leading to the airline's announcement that it will halt flights starting Thursday.

The Transportation Ministry rejected El Al's assertion that the new flight path was unsafe, saying that it was created in cooperation with El Al, Arkia, Israir, the Israel Airports Authority, the Israel Air Force and international bodies. "Since September 9, Arkia and Israir have been flying the new route and expressed a high level of satisfaction, in particular with respect to safety," the ministry said in a statement. "Any attempt to state that the new arrangement does not meet safety standards is groundless."

El Al's day flights to Eilat are suspended.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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