El Al to Offer 'Low-cost, No-frills' Europe Tickets

Bare-bones tickets will be offered only for tourist-class seats, and not in the more upscale classes.

El Al will start selling low-cost, no-frills tickets on its regular scheduled flights, with services such as meals, earphones and baggage offered as extras.

The move is part of an experiment to create a product similar to that of low-cost airlines, in an effort to compete.

Bare-bones tickets will be offered only for tourist-class seats, and not in the more upscale business and first classes. The number of discounted seats in tourist class will be limited, and will be concentrated in a single area rather than scattered throughout the cabin.

The new product will be introduced gradually on all of El Al's regular scheduled flights.

At the initial stage the company intends to incorporate the discounted seats on flights to nearby destinations like Europe, since it's hard to imagine a passenger would be willing to forgo a meal on longer direct flights to Los Angeles or Sao Paulo, Brazil.

El Al's chief executive Haim Romano says the move is unrelated to an earlier plan by the airline's former CEO, Rafi Har Lev, to operate entire low-cost flights.

This idea was explored, says Romano, but the airline believed it would not be profitable at the time.

The current idea is similar to that implemented by hotels, which offer rooms with half-board, breakfast or no meals at all.

Tickets to European destinations will cost $199. Romano said that the first test case is being offered on flights to Rome in August, and reports that five tickets have already been sold.

El Al's announcement elicited varying responses from its competitors.

The chief executive of Brussels Air in Israel said his airline prefers to focus on the long term, rather than "just filling up empty seats."

Royal Jordanian Airline's Israel director said she would not recommend such a move to her bosses in Amman. "I can already imagine Israelis boarding the planes with picnic boxes. But I don't begrudge airlines that follow in El Al's footsteps, and rightfully so. Low-cost airlines like Easyjet must be outcompeted."