El Al Seeks More Landing Rights to Offset Rivals’ Growth in U.S.

After four years of worsening competitive position Israel’s El Al Airline is pressing hard for additional landing rights in the United States to stop its slide backwards in the growing competition for air passenger traffic between the two countries. The last time Israel sought what it considers to be necessary changes in the Israeli-American air transport agreement was in 1968. Those negotiations ended in no change. Now the Israelis see a desperate need for more landing rights to avert severe difficulties.

On Nov. 6, therefore, when Israelis and Americans get together here again to discuss the air traffic problems, the Israelis hope to convince the State Department and the Civil Aeronautics Board to grant El Al authorization to pick up and discharge passengers in at least one more American city. In 1950, when the US-Israel agreement was concluded, trans-Atlantic travel involved about 300,000 passenger crossings a year. Today, the traffic between the US and Europe and Israel is close to ten million. Nevertheless, Israel is required to conform its operations to the circumstances dating back almost a quarter of a century.

At present, El Al’s American landing rights are restricted to Kennedy Airport in New York. It wishes to have similar rights in a Mid-West or West Coast urban center as well. The only American flag carrier to Israel is TWA which has rights for traffic to and from Israel in eight large American cities on both coasts and in the Mid-West. To fly El Al to Israel, American passengers must make their way to Kennedy by another service and face the discomforts of crowds, urban transport and loss of time.

EL AL OUTSTRIPPED BY OTHERS

Naturally, the same difficulties face passengers on return flights from Tel Aviv. TWA, however, has single-plane service for Tel Aviv from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington and Baltimore. In addition, TWA has service in St. Louis and Detroit with a change of planes en route to Israel. These eight centers form a nucleus embracing much of urban America. Despite these obvious advantages to TWA, however, Israel actually is not asking to reduce TWA’s operations.

El Al feels choked from the expanding pressure from nine third-country flag carriers, all based in Europe and capable either on their own or through connecting services to transport passengers between most major urban centers in the United States and Israel via their own countries. These are Lufthansa, BOAC, Alitalia, KLM, SAS, British-European, Air France, Olympic and Swiss air.

Since the Israelis and the Americans discussed the problems in 1968, most of the European companies have received additional landing rights in the United States and thereby improved their services for flights to and from Israel. Meanwhile, El Al was left standing still.

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