El Al May Lease Planes to Arkia, Israir to Resolve Sun D'or Crisis

El Al is searching for ways to accommodate passengers holding tickets on its subsidiary Sun D'Or for flights after April 1, when the Civil Aviation Authority will shut down the charter airline. One possible solution is for El Al to lease planes and crews to either Arkia or Israir, which would then operate the scheduled flights.

The leasing would apply to flights on Saturdays and Jewish holidays, such as the coming Passover holiday. El Al does not fly on the Sabbath or on Jewish holidays; one of the reasons it established Sun D'Or was to circumvent this restriction.

Passengers on Sun D'Or flights scheduled for regular weekdays would be switched to El Al flights, or El Al would operate the flights in place of Sun D'Or.

The flights that may be taken over by Israir or Arkia would operate with full El Al crews, pilots and stewards - an arrangement known as "wet leasing." Sun D'Or operated three Boeing 757s it leased from El Al, and used additional El Al planes on the weekends as needed.

The CAA decided Sunday to revoke Sun D'Or's license, explaining that it doesn't meet the criteria necessary to qualify as an airline, as it does not have its own planes, management, pilots or air staff, and relies on El Al's infrastructure.

According to CAA head Giora Rom, Sun D'Or did not meet Israeli or international standards demanded of local airlines. Sun D'Or was given until the end of this month to fix the problems, or stop flying.

El Al, which was privatized in 2003, said Sun D'Or staff and the CAA were working together to reach an acceptable solution for the subsidiary airline's operations.

"The company expects the Transportation Ministry to do everything in its power to enable continued Sun D'Or flights to all destinations, and is convinced this will happen. Sun D'Or will take care of all its passengers," El Al Airlines said.

Israir said it had yet to receive any request on the matter, but that if it does it will make every effort to help Sun D'Or.

Arkia said it is not involved in negotiations on the matter at the moment, but would consider cooperating with El Al.