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Planes. El Al accuses Air India of unfair competition

"Clouds" on the Delhi-Tel Aviv route, between economic interests and diplomatic implications

Appealing to the Supreme Court of Israel, El Al has requested the annulment of the authorization of Air India's direct flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. Announced in July 2017 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and inaugurated last week (see for details AVIONEWS connected press article), the new connection flying over the Saudi skies would have caused the indignation of El Al. Worried about facing a long term financial damage, the airline has therefore started to sue the Government, Civil Aviation Authorities, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , Transport Minister Yisrael Katz and Air India.

"The State of Israel does not understand the damage caused by the Government. Today it is India, tomorrow it will be Thailand and then the whole East. The damage caused by this decision to the 6,000 employees' company is impossibile to estimate" explained Gonen Usishkin, El Al president and CEO.
The Israeli airline therefore asks the local court to prevent the Indian carrier from taking the air shortcut, asking a similar permit in return.

Complaining about a heavy economic damage caused by the new Indian route (which would shorten the flight time by more than two hours), the Israeli air carrier declared itself a victim of unfair competition. Holding for years the primacy on direct flights to India, the company has always been forced non to fly in Saudi and Iranian airspace for socio-political reasons. El Al has been obliged to impose higher travel prices, affording high fuel and crew costs over time by circumventing the entire Arabian peninsula.

As Eli Defes said: "The permission that Saudi Arabia has given to Air India is a global precedent". The possible claim of other companies to obtain permission to fly over Saudi Arabia to Israel (which has been strictly denied until the inauguration of the new indian flight) worries El Al's board of directors chairman.

Result of the Israeli Tourism Ministry campaign, the air shortcut granted to Air India involves a lot of passengers, exclusively satisfied by El Al so far. The Israeli carrier conducts approximately 60,000 Israelis (mostly on a business trip) in India each year. Particularly appreciated by young people, India is also the destination of many young men that usually purchase cheaper flights to reach India after the military service. Air India, incentivized by the strong tourist demand, has also organized further transfers for Thailand, another popular destination among the Israelis.
Probably determined to start new diplomatic relations about interests against Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia vaguely replied to El Al's lawyers charges. By the way the company's lawyers are convinced that Air India flight violates fair competition, equal opportunities policies between Israeli airlines and foreign carriers and international aviation conventions. The Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz called the Saudi Arabia flyover an "historical" event "of potentially huge socio-political and diplomatic importance.

Apparently resulting from economic, tourist and technological interests, the permission granted to Air India would conceal diplomatic and socio-political motivations, effectively embodying a tangible possibility of improved international relations.

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