Open Up the Skies, Monsieur!

The skies between France and Israel are opening up to competition. The two countries signed an agreement allowing additional airlines to operate regularly scheduled flights between them, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz announced yesterday. According to the deal, each country will be able to select a second airline to operate between each French and Israeli city besides Air France or El Al.

In addition, airlines will be able to fly to any destination in France, not just the current limited number of destinations. The deal, which was signed in Paris, seeks to boost competition by banning coordination on prices, capacities and schedules between airlines.

Transportation Ministry Director General Gideon Siterman commented, "The deal will allow Israel to operate immediately direct flights to Nice in the South of France through one of the Israeli airlines because El Al does not currently operate flights to Nice."

Civil Aviation Authority figures show that 732,000 passengers flew to France last year, of which 242,000 were French tourists.

Israeli airlines, led by El Al, accounted for 76 percent of air traffic between the two countries. Many French tourists voiced complaints during the past year about the particularly high price of flights to Israel due to the lack of competition.