Israel to Ask U.S. to Keep American Airlines Flying to Tel Aviv

The carrier cites business reasons for halting the service come January.

Bloomberg

The Transportation Ministry asked the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday to contact Washington in an effort to head off American Airlines’ discontinuing of its Tel Aviv-Philadelphia route.

The carrier announced last week that it would stop flying to Israel starting in January. The route had been inaugurated in 2009 by US Airways, which later merged with American.

Transportation Ministry director general Uzi Itzhaki said Tuesday he had contacted his counterpart at the Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, seeking to have the matter addressed by diplomats. Itzhaki expressed concern over the cancellation “particularly from the standpoint of harm to the consumer.”

“American Airlines’ operations were welcome when it came to everything related to ... reducing the price of airlines tickets,” he said. “We acknowledge that this involves a private airline, but shutting down the route would impair the level of service and increase ticket prices.”

Israel-Philadelphia fares on American have been lower than fares via other airlines’ combinations, Itzhaki said.

Philadelphia is a hub for passengers traveling between Israel and other destinations served by American. More than 70% of passengers on the Tel Aviv-Philadelphia route connect with other destinations, American’s managing director of government and airport affairs, Rhett Workman, told Philly.com.

Foreign Ministry officials say that since American Airlines is not state-owned, it will be hard to intervene in its business decisions, but the ministry will see what it can do.

Indeed, American said its motivation for halting the service was strictly business. “We looked at every single option with every single aircraft that we have,” Workman told Philly.com.

“The reason we’ve had the route in place for six years is because of the tremendous support we’ve had from the city,” he said, referring to Philadelphia. “The flights were full for the most part,” Workman said, but added that this was “not an indicator of profitability.”

The Israel Airports Authority reported that 95,000 passengers had flown the route since the beginning of the year.