El Al to Netanyahu: Help Us Resume Flights to Turkey

And if El Al can't fly to Turkey, Turkish Airlines shouldn't be able to fly to Israel, says airline's CEO.

El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedy has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the dispute that is preventing Israeli airlines from flying to Turkey.

In a letter to Netanyahu last weekend, Shkedy said that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of flights to Israel by Turkish airlines, while Israeli airlines are unable to fly the route due to the refusal of the Turkish authorities to accede to Israel's security requirements.

The number of flights by Turkish airlines to Israel has grown from 42 per week to a record high of 112 since 2010, compared to zero flights by Israeli airlines to Turkey during those years.

"We encountered, and still encounter, refusal to have flights by Israeli airline companies to Istanbul and other destinations in Turkey because of the security requirements and other odd claims of various sorts," Shkedy wrote. "We are simply being prevented from flying to Turkey."

The situation, Shkedy said, constitutes "incomprehensible support by the State of Israel for the international expansion of the Turkish airline companies at the expense of the Israeli airline companies, which are prevented from flying."

Shkedy's letter followed a meeting last month with Giora Romm, director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel, and all the relevant security officials. El Al was told that meetings with various Turkish officials had taken place to find a solution that would allow Israeli carriers to fly to Turkey, but the situation had not changed.

In his letter to the prime minister, Shkedy wrote that El Al had been making maximum efforts to convey to those in charge of Israeli aviation - Romm and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz - "the inconceivable and incomprehensible nature of the situation regarding Turkey in general and Turkish and Israeli airline companies in particular."

"We were told unequivocally that if the Israeli carriers could not fly to Turkey, the Turkish carriers would not be allowed to fly to Israel. That's the least any self-respecting country can do, but it isn't being done," Shkedy told the prime minister.

"I am writing to ask you to instruct the relevant authorities, clearly and unequivocally, to act so that Israeli airline companies may be given the option to compete. A solution must be demanded as a condition for continued Turkish flights to Israel, and the increase in the frequency of flights must be stopped until an appropriate solution is found, such as what was done in the past regarding Russia."

Officials of the Prime Minister's Office confirmed that the letter had been received.

Israeli-Turkish cooperation in the aviation field will be discussed at an academic-business conference at Tel Aviv University on Monday, attended by officials of the Israel Turkey Business Council, the Turkish commercial attache, business people and academics from Israel and Turkey. The conference, which will last for two days, will be headed by Professor Jacob Zahavi of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management.

The conference will feature two panel discussions with Israeli and Turkish business people. The three CEOs of Israel's airlines - El Al, Arkia and Israir - will participate in Monday's panel discussion on aviation, which will focus on the Open Skies agreement.

An El Al airplane in flight.Credit: Archive

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