El Al announces extension of flight suspensions until June 30

Beleaguered national carrier notifies stock exchange that it will continue with cargo routes as usual but passenger flights to only be flown ‘as needed’

Grounded El Al planes at Ben Gurion Airport on April 6, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90)
Grounded El Al planes at Ben Gurion Airport on April 6, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90)

National carrier El Al Airlines announced Sunday that it was extending an ongoing suspension in regular passenger services until the end of the month as it continues to suffer from a chronic dearth in travelers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a notification to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the company said it would continue to offer its cargo services to and from the country as usual but that there would only be limited passenger flights “as needed.”

Since March the company has operated passenger flights to repatriate Israeli citizens stranded overseas in coordination with the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry, as well as cargo flights.

The carrier has been demanding significant help to stay afloat after being gutted by the near stand-still in international travel as countries, including Israel, clamped down on travel in an effort to contain the virus outbreak.

Sunday’s announcement came hours after the government revealed its rescue package to save the airline from financial collapse.

According to a plan published by the Finance Ministry, the company will take a loan of NIS 250 million ($72 million), most of which will be backed by the state.

Additionally, El Al will issue stock totaling NIS 150 million ($43 million) and the state will promise to purchase shares that aren’t bought by others.

El Al notified the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange of the Finance Ministry’s offer, which still requires approval by the company, the government and the Knesset’s Finance Committee, the company said in a statement.

Last month, the carrier warned it was in danger of collapse if bailout negotiations with the government failed, at the same time reporting a dramatic loss in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Israel currently only allows citizens and residents to enter, and they must undergo a two-week period of quarantine upon their return to the country. Only a handful of flights enter or leave the country daily.

Last week three foreign airlines, Air Canada, Delta Air, and German carrier Lufthansa restarted regular flights to Israel that they halted during the virus outbreak.

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