Sunday, April 21, 2013
Israeli airlines strike as cabinet approves Open Skies agreement; El Al stock drops
Steps were taken ahead of the strike to minimize disruption: All incoming flights landed as usual overnight, with some 5,000 passengers entering Israel between midnight and 5 A.M. Flight traffic for foreign airlines continued without disruption. The carriers moved up most departures, with the airport opening for takeoff at 4 A.M., so that outgoing passengers could leave Israel.
Following the decision to open the airport at 4 A.M., some 28 flights operated by Israeli airlines departed by 5 A.M. carrying some 4,500 passengers. The last flight whose departure time was moved up was No. 007, which was supposed to depart for New York at 10:40 A.M. but left at 1:10 A.M. instead.
The deal, reached by Israeli and EU negotiators in July 2012, needs the cabinet's approval for the ministers of foreign affairs, transportation and infrastructure to sign. The agreement stemmed from a cabinet decision in September 2006.
Under the Open Skies proposal, ticket prices would drop and new routes would be added. The agreement would annul the bilateral aviation agreements between Israel and the EU countries so that any European or Israeli airline could operate regular flights to and from Israel to increase tourism to Israel and strengthen the economy.
A source at the Israel Airports Authority said its workers would not join the strike, so for the time being no special arrangements were being made at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Transportation minister: Enough with the threats
Finance Minister Yair Lapid met Friday at his Ramat Aviv home with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and airline union heads. Lapid's office said he supported the proposal, which he and Katz intend to present to the cabinet.
"The agreement will be presented to the cabinet no matter what. Those who threaten strikes threaten themselves," Katz said after his meeting with Lapid, noting that passengers affected by strikes might switch to foreign airlines.
About 60 employees of Israeli airlines protested Friday morning, one group at Lapid's house and one at Katz's in Kfar Ahim. Lapid came out to talk to the demonstrators and invited the workers' committee leader to meet with him at his home.
"The finance minister understands the airlines' needs," Asher Edry, the El Al workers committee chairman, said after the meeting. "We favor competition but we need protection so we aren't taken apart... Minister Katz lied to us before the election and isn't implementing what was signed. Lapid said he would check matters with Katz and we'd get answers. The announcement about the strike still stands."
The proposal requires the cabinet's approval for an NIS 5 million increase in the government's share in security costs for the Israeli airlines, beginning on the first day of the 2015 summer season and until the last day of the 2016-17 winter sesion. The cabinet will revisit funding for security expenses ahead of the 2017 summer season.
According to the Israel Airports Authority, Israeli airlines have 53 takeoffs and 38 landings scheduled for Sunday at Ben-Gurion. This means that the strike will affect 8,703 departures and 6,888 arrivals - a total of 15,591 passengers.