Siterman Committee to Recommend Open Skies Policy to Low Cost Airlines

The main recommendation of the Siterman Committee, which submits its findings to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz next week, is implementing an "open skies" policy. This mean low cost foreign airlines will compete against regular airlines on routes to and from Israel. The competition is expected to cut fares and increase tourism here.

TheMarker received a draft report from the committee, which is chaired by Transportation Ministry Director General Gideon Siterman and deals with opening of air routes to competition. After two months of hearings, it held a summary meeting last week.

Priority will be given to introducing low cost foreign airlines here. If for instance, in bilateral aviation talks between Israel and Germany the German aviation authority requests increasing weekly flights to Israel, the Transportation Ministry will agree, provided the flights are by low cost German airlines and not by a big firm like Lufthansa.

Another central recommendation is new infrastructure at Ben-Gurion International Airport so smaller cheaper firms will not have to pay the high charges the Israel Airports Authority asks of the industry giants.

Many low cost airlines operate in Europe, the leaders being the British companies easyJet and Ryanair. Such companies reshuffled the European air travel when they dramatically slashed fares.

They offer an attractive alternative to expensive railway travel in Europe. The average price of a one-way airline ticket (within Europe) is 80 euro, although tickets can sometimes be had for as little as 10 euro (including airport taxes). Low cost European airlines were established after the signing of the European open skies agreement in 1992. It swept away limitations that kept market access for national airlines, such as British Airways.

Sixty of the 108 companies that were then founded are still active today. Ryanair began operation in 1985, and now flies to 454 destinations in 24 European countries. EasyJet offers service to 258 destinations. The United States also enjoys a choice of low cost airlines, the largest of which is US Air.