New Israeli airline hopes to get license in September to start flights from Haifa

Air Haifa, based in the northern port city, plans to offer ‘affordable and competitive’ airfares to southern resort city Eilat, as well as Mediterranean destinations

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Israeli low-cost airline Air Haifa. (Courtesy)
Israeli low-cost airline Air Haifa. (Courtesy)

Air Haifa, a new low-cost airline that promises to bring down pricey short-haul flights for residents of northern Israel, is hoping to take off out of the city of Haifa as soon as September.

Air Haifa, Israel’s first new airline since the 1990s, says it is the first commercial airline to be based in Haifa. The carrier plans to start operating regular flights with high frequency at “affordable and competitive” prices from Haifa International Airport to the southern resort city of Eilat and a variety of destinations in the Mediterranean and Red Sea, which could include Cyprus.

For now though, the low-cost carrier has not provided any details about international destinations and schedules and has not started ticket sales.

The new carrier announced on Tuesday that it is in the final stages of the process of receiving an operating license from the Civil Aviation Authority, after obtaining approval for a commercial license from Transportation Minister Miri Regev in September. Air Haifa said it expects to receive the license in September, whereupon it will launch commercial operations from Haifa airport.

Air Haifa was co-founded in 2023 by a group of Israeli entrepreneurs led by Nir Zuk, American-Israeli founder of cybersecurity giant Palo Alto Networks, and Lior Yavor, together with former senior executives of Israel’s flagship carrier El Al Israel Airlines Gonen Usishkin and Michael Strassburger.

“We are proud, especially in this period, to be the first commercial airline in the country’s history to base its operations at the Haifa International Airport,” said Air Haifa CEO Usishkin. “Upon completion of the company’s licensing process and receipt of the required licenses from the Civil Aviation Authority, we will announce the date for the launch of operations and start selling tickets.”

Haifa Airport terminal (CC BY SA-3.0, by Oyoyoy, Wikimedia Commons)

Air Haifa emphasized that the timing of the launch of the new carrier during the current period of escalated fighting in the north is an “important step for the region that will help to strengthen the local economy and create new jobs.”

With the outbreak of the war in Gaza in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas terror assault, most foreign airlines grounded their flights to Israel, leaving travelers from the country’s international Ben Gurion Airport almost entirely dependent on Israeli carriers El Al Israel Airlines, Israir, and Arkia. Air travel costs have been skyrocketing, as foreign carriers struggle to gradually resume full service to Israel and demand is high.

“Air Haifa will provide air connectivity to the region, make it easier for the residents of the north to fly abroad, and is expected to further contribute to the tourism development of the Haifa region and the north,” Air Haifa said in a statement.

The carrier announced that the first 72-passenger plane of its fleet of ATR 72-600 aircraft will arrive from France’s Toulouse airport at the end of July. Over the coming months, it expects to receive another two planes of the same aircraft model, it said.

Haifa airport is a domestic and international airport located at the eastern entrance to the city of Haifa and is run by the Israel Airports Authority. It can operate flights to the Ramon airport in Eilat as well as nearby international destinations, such as Larnaca, Paphos, Rhodes, Crete, and Carpathos. The airport was established by the British in 1934 and was the first international airport in Israel. At the time, it served the British Royal Airforce and the joint Iraqi-British oil company.

The launch of commercial air travel from Haifa airport is hoped to relieve congestion at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, and for many Israelis living in the north of the country, it would provide an alternative to bypass the busy airport.

“Instead of a long drive to the airport and arriving 3 hours before the flight to wait on lines and at the gate, our passengers will enjoy the convenience of flying internationally from their local airport and getting from their doorstep to onboard the airplane in less than ~90 minutes,” Air Haifa said on its website.

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