El Al: Give More Money or No Security Services for Arkia, Israir

Joint ministerial team to address problem, exacerbated by expansion of airlines' routes abroad.

AP

El Al Israel Airlines cannot continue to provide security services abroad to Israel’s other airlines, Arkia and Israir, unless it gets additional funding, the airline warned yesterday.

The budget the Finance Ministry approved for security services falls $25 million short of what is required ahead of the spring flight schedule for the local airlines, which goes into effect on April 1, El Al claims.

After Israel signed the Open Skies accord – a commercial aviation liberalization pact with the European Union that is expected to boost the competition El Al will face – the government agreed to pick up 97.5% of that airline's security costs.

The issue of the aviation security budget threatens to affect plans by Israeli airlines to expand routes to new destinations as part of the Open Skies. In the coming weeks, a joint team from the Transportation Ministry and the Finance Ministry budget division are due to address the issue of funding for security to the new destinations.

“Limited funding will not allow the [El Al] security division to provide the [other] Israeli airlines with the services they require in 2014,” division head Daniel Stapleton warned the finance and transportation ministries and the Shin Bet security service in a letter.

The lack of funds is prompting particular concern at Arkia, which is supposed to fly a number of groups of religious pilgrims to Israel from Spain in early April. Tickets for those flights were sold by a Spanish wholesaler about four months ago.

Israel's Histadrut labor federation said it would take action if the security issue is not resolved. At this point, however, Avi Edri, who is responsible on behalf of the federation for the transportation sector, said no such action will be taken in order to allow the joint team from the finance and transportation ministries to deal with the situation.

For its part, the Transportation Ministry issued a statement acknowledging the need to increase funding for security as a result of the expansion of air traffic; the treasury says the matter is currently being addressed.

El Al, meanwhile, said it planned to begin regular service to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev as part of its low-cost UP service, starting March 30 despite the Russian occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and ongoing bilateral tensions. The city is one of five European destinations of El Al's new brand.

Another low-cost carrier, Wizz Air, will inaugurate regular service between Tel Aviv and another Ukrainian city, Lviv, starting May 1.

According to Israel Civil Aviation Authority figures, some 47,100 passengers have flown between Israel and the Ukraine in the first two months of this year, a 22.5% increase over the same period in 2013.