The Irish airline Ryanair has announced that it is in talks with Israeli authorities to begin regular flights to Ben Gurion and establish a regional version of the no-frills carrier based out of Tel Aviv.
The Irish budget airline, known for its spartan seats and low prices, has shown no apprehension about attempting to make inroads in the Israeli market despite the dip in air traffic related to the recent flare-up of violence. Last month the American Federal Aviation Administration and several European airliners suspended flights to Israel for 48 hours after a rocket hit a house in Yehud, a town located a few miles away from Ben Gurion Airport.
“We want to serve markets all over Israel to Russia, central Europe, the UK, Germany and a lot of other markets,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary told the Irish Independent in an interview published Monday.
Expanding into the the Jewish state has not been without difficulty, as the Dublin-based company has been greeted with a number of hurdles. “We’re actively talking to the Israeli authorities, but the difficulty is that once you go outside Europe you need to have, in this case, an Israeli air operator’s certificate,” explained O’Leary.
“But it’s still very much on the front foot for us. But the Israeli authorities have got much more nervous about protecting El Al from competition because of the recent events.”
El Al, the Israeli air giant that has historically dominated the country’s market, opened its own low-cost subsidiary in March of this year. UP, based out of Ben Gurion International Airport, advertises bargain flights to Berlin, Kiev, Budapest, Prague and Larnaca, Cyprus.
Despite the opposition, O’Leary seemed upbeat about his company’s plans for expansion. “What we’re looking to do in Israel is something much bigger…we want to build a big base in Israel.”