WASHINGTON (Jul. 16)
The United States and Israel have agreed on a new bilateral civil aviation agreement that is expected to result in greatly expanded air service and lower passenger fares between the two countries.
The agreement, announced at the State Department yesterday after three weeks of negotiations, replaces the original 1950 U.S.-Israel arrangement and its amendments. It will be signed early in August after Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz, who headed the Israeli delegation in the negotiations, returns to Washington from the Middle East talks in England and his consultations afterward in Jerusalem.
According to the State Department, the agreement will permit airlines of Israel and the U.S. to operate any number of charter flights between the two countries. It also provides El Al, Israel’s national airline, with two additional gateways into the U.S. upon the signing of the agreement and two others a year after the agreement is in effect. At present El Al operates only in New York.
A U.S. spokesman said charter flights will be available “subject only to conformity with the charter rule of the country in which they originate.”
Israel has agreed to lower air fares by U.S. airlines subject only to the limitation of a rejection by the two governments and also charter airflights from anywhere in the U.S. to Israel. Up to now either country could block a new fare rate and charters are limited from the U.S. to the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington.
POTENTIAL STUMBLING BLOCK OVERCOME
A potential stumbling block–the possibility of Western European airlines competing in fares with the U.S. and Israel–was resolved when Israel and the U.S. agreed that a third country’s rate for flights from the U.S. to Israel cannot be lower than the matching rate for U.S. and Israel services. It has been feared that European airlines would chop their fare to capture much of the traffic.
An Israeli embassy spokesman welcomed the new agreement as “very important” and “the most liberal the U.S. has ever reached with another country.” He said “we are very pleased to have reached it.” While TWA is now the only American airline operating to Israel, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed that National Airlines will apply in the near future to fly DC-10 jumbo jets from Miami to Tel Aviv via Amsterdam. The new agreement allows for more than one U.S. airline to operate to Israel.
A spokesman for Sen. Charles Percy (R. III.) who is credited with being instrumental in bringing about the new agreement said that El Al’s choice for the first two gateways will be Los Angeles and Chicago. The next two to come late in the summer of 1979 will be Miami and Boston.
El Al will fly twice weekly wide-bodied 747 jets between Tel Aviv and Chicago and Los Angeles no later than April of next year, the spokesman said. The Chicago-Tel Aviv flights will have an intermediate stop in Montreal while the Los Angeles service will have either London or Amsterdam as the intermediate point. The Boston-Tel Aviv flights by 747s will be non-stop. Miami’s flight will originate in Mexico City and proceed to Tel Aviv via Lisbon. This will be a once-weekly service. El Al will not be permitted to fly passengers “locally” between Mexico City and Miami and between Los Angeles and Montreal.