Gov't to Ensure Direct Flights Between Egypt and Israel Continue

Israeli carriers will continue operating regular flights to Egypt in 2007, despite El Al's announcement that it would no longer fly there, government officials decided last week in a closed discussion.

Representatives of the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry insisted on the political importance of the route.

National carrier El Al had announced it would stop flying to Egypt at the end of the month because the route was not profitable enough.

Civil Aviation Authority official Arik Ben Ari said at the meeting that Israeli airlines Arkia and Israir have said they are willing to consider operating the Israel-Egypt line. Gideon Siterman, the director general of the Transportation Ministry, is slated to meet with the heads of both carriers to discuss the financial ramifications of flying to Cairo, which involves relatively high security expenses. During the meeting, which included security officials, the matter of a government subsidy for security expenses was not raised.

Siterman also spoke with El Al about continuing flights to Cairo for a limited time, while the government looks for an alternative option. El Al has already agreed to a previous request by the government to continue flying to Egypt until the end of December; it had originally planned to stop its flights in November.