Transportation Min.: Canceling Cairo Flight May Cause El Al to Lose Official Status

Airline announces it will discontinue flight due to economic considerations; El Al's status as official airline may be revoked.

Transportation Ministry Director General Gideon Siterman sent a letter to El Al senior officials on Thursday, cautioning the company that the government may revoke its status as Israel's official airline.

Siterman sent the letter following the airline's decision to discontinue flights between Ben Gurion International Airport and Cairo.

Haaretz has learned that the letter, sent to El Al CEO Haim Romano, warned of "significant repercussions" for the cancellation of flights to the Egyptian capital. Siterman also called on El Al's leadership to reconsider the decision.

Siterman plans to hold an emergency meeting on the matter with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and officials from the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs, saying he sees great importance in continuing the flight route.

El Al officials appeared Thursday before members of a public committee advocating greater competition in the airline industry.

Siterman and Israel Borovitz, chairman of El Al's managing committee, said that the money the airline is required to spent on security makes competition with foreign airlines difficult.

El Al will stop flights to Cairo starting November 23, saying the flight was no longer profitable. It encouraged the private airline Arkia to take the flight for itself, since it has smaller aircraft better suited to the lower passenger volume on the flights.