Transport Ministry to Issue Tender for Operation of Flights to N. Israel

Transport Min.: Routes important to gov't after Second Lebanon War; previous company suing Mofaz after dispute with local authorities.

The Transport Ministry is set to issue a tender Thursday to operate flights from Tel Aviv to Rosh Pina, in Israel's north. Fares on the flights would be subsidized by the Transport Ministry.

The tender was announced after previous operator Tamir Aviation ceased its service to Rosh Pina and Kiryat Shmona due to a dispute between it and local authorities.

Director of the Transport Ministry Gideon Sitterman's efforts to reconcile differences between the company and the landing strip operator in Kiryat Shmona failed.

Tamir Aviation ceased service to Rosh Pina shortly after talks between the parties in Kiryat Shmona failed, because flying to just one destination rather than two was not economically viable for it.

The company further sued Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz and Sitterman for dishonoring the conditions of the tender, and demanding the Transport Ministry pay damages.

Mofaz announced Wednesday that the winner of the new tender would be required to operate at least four flights a day from Tel Aviv to Rosh Pina.

Mofaz stressed that the importance of reinstating air service to Israel's north in light of the Second Lebanon War, during which townships there were seriously affected by Katyusha fire from neighboring Lebanon.

He said that the Transport Ministry had decided to increase the government's subsidization of flights from NIS 20 to NIS 100 for residents of the northern towns. Maximum airfares on the Tel Aviv-Rosh Pina route would never exceed NIS 260 for regular passengers and NIS 185 for residents.

Bids for the tender would be accepted from Israeli air companies with a commercial or operational license and aircraft with a capacity of at least ten passengers. The successful company would be required to begin operating flights within one month of receiving the tender.