El Al announced Tuesday it was canceling all of its flights from Tel Aviv to Eilat in response to what it called “a one-sided decision” by the Israel Airport Authority to set a new flight route for the planes.
The airline said it would reimburse those who had purchased a ticket, and would also provide buses (free of charge) to transport them from Tel Aviv to Eilat.
El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedy said the decision was made because the company “didn’t receive a proper response from the IAA to questions by professionals and El Al’s chief pilot” about the new rules and the solutions given so far were not satisfactory.
The changes have to do with both the flight route and the takeoff and landing procedures at the Eilat airport during daytime. Shkedy said El Al didn’t believe the new regulations would allow the company to operate at the highest safety standards, and wanted the IAA to talk with its representatives before making a final decision.
In a statement, El Al said its pilots had been closely following the changes and learning them. One of the senior managers “even journeyed to a simulator drill in Amsterdam” in order to understand the implications of the new rules.
The company also said one of its pilots “with a rich history and in-depth acquaintance with the airport in Eilat, who in his past was the commander of the Israel Air Force flight test squadron,” made a special, passenger-less flight to the southern city. His feedback, the statement said, “left no doubt regarding the dangers” of the new IAA suggestion.
Shkedy asked the Civil Flight Authority, the body in charge of nonmilitary airports, to allow Eilat’s airport to operate according to the old regulations or open the Ovda airport as a temporary solution until the sides reach an agreement.
According to Israel Radio, Arkia and SunDor, the other Israeli carriers operating flights from Tel Aviv to Eilat, were “surprised” by El Al’s announcement, and will continue to fly as usual.