El Al Israel Airlines is launching a new, low-cost airline that will initially fly between Israel and five European destinations, the company announced Tuesday.
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Named UP, the new brand will start service on March 30, between Ben-Gurion International Airport and Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Kiev and the Cyrpiot city of Larnaca. Service will later be expanded to additional destinations, the company said.
One-way fares on UP will start at $69 and space on the 50 weekly flights will go on sale in the next several weeks.
UP will use 737-800 airliners with 144 regular coach seats and an upgraded Tourist Plus class with 36 seats. The latter will have roomier seating and food and beverages at no extra charge, while passengers flying in the lowest fare class will pay extra for food and beverages.
The most basic fare, to be called UP Basic, will require travelers to pay extra for checked baggage, pre-assigned seats and changes to reservations, according to El Al’s marketing director, Einat Yanai. Customers in this fare class will also not be eligible for cash refund and will be charged a $10 fee to reserve seats in advance. They will have the option of upgrading their seats on a space-available basis The UP Smart fare class will include a range of services, including checked luggage at no charge, seating in the Tourist Plus cabin, use of El Al’s King David Lounge at Ben-Gurion airport and more flexible ticketing terms.
“The new brand will allow customers to build the product that is appropriate for them and chose what to pay for,” said El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi. “We are convinced that the move will bring about an improvement in our ability to compete, expand our customer base and better address the needs of passengers,” he said. The airline has approached the Transportation Minister for recognition of UP as a low-cost carrier, which would qualify it for the lower airport tax rates paid by the foreign discount airlines that make use of the old terminal building at Ben-Gurion airport, Terminal 1, Shekedy added.
El Al’s VP for Commercial and Industry Affairs, David Maimon, said UP’s choice of the five initial destinations will serve as an acid test for decisions over which other routes to add. The initial schedule will feature up to 11 weekly flights to Berlin, Prague, Kiev and Budapest and up to six flights a week to Larnaca. Introductory fares for select dates between March 30 and June 30 will start at $69 each way on the Prague and Budapest routes and $99 each way on the service to and from Berlin, Kiev and Larnaca.