Tuesday, September 18, 2012

► EGYPT: Israel's El Al looks to ditch Cairo flights amid a deteriorating Middle East.

El Al logoCiting heavy security requirements and high operational costs, Israeli carrier El Al (LY) is seeking official approval to abandon its weekly Tel Aviv, Israel - Cairo, Egypt flight, a move likely to be blocked by Israel's government, given its now strained relations with the new Egyptian Presidency of Mohammed Morsi.

Since the overthrow of former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak last year, El Al's Cairo flights have been almost empty, operating solely to fulfil government needs.

In a letter to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman  published by Israeli paper Maariv, El Al's chief executive officer, Elyezer Shkedyto, laid out their case carte blanche:
"Operating the flight route to Cairo and maintaining the necessary infrastructure for that requires a large amount of security and operational resources, and heavy economic expenditure which amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Without any commercial justification and in light of the high economic cost of operating this line, El Al cannot continue to bear these heavy expenses, and therefore is intending to stop operating the route to Cairo immediately."
Source [France24]

Air Sinai 737 landing in Tel Aviv
Unmarked Air Sinai landing in Tel Aviv (SU-GBK)
Despite the obvious uneconomical aspect of the flights, their diplomatic significance goes back 30 years to the signing of the 1979 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty which resulted in the normalization of ties between Egypt and Israel, following 4 successive wars. Amongst the terms agreed to in the Treaty was the commencement of regular flights between Cairo and Tel Aviv, which started in April 1980. As a result, Israel's Foreign Ministry fears that, should El Al pull out of  its solitary Middle Eastern route, it will never be able to return.

Said an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman:
"Any element of normalization between the two countries that is stopped, simply won't be reinstated."

Egypt's side of the deal is fulfilled by Air Sinai (4D), whose 4x weekly service between Cairo and Tel Aviv acts as a proxy for Egyptian national carrier, EgyptAir (MS).

Due to the sensitive nature of Egypt's relationship with Israel and with the Arab world at large, Egyptair does not operate any direct flights to Israel under its own name.