TEL AVIV (Mar. 11)
EI AI, Israel’s national airline, has come up with a way to recoup part of the severe losses it has sustained since a ban on Sabbath flights was imposed by the government several years ago under intense pressure from the Orthodox religious establishment.
Rafi Har-Lev, president of El Al, has proposed leasing its Boeing 747s from sundown Friday to sundown Saturdays to charter companies not affected by the ban. Saturday is the favored day of the week for many European tourists to start their vacations. The enforced idleness of the giant aircraft means that traffic is lost to El Al.
Har-Lev made the offer Monday at a reception inaugurating charter service between Israel and Hamburg and Cologne in West Germany. It is operated jointly by Arkia, Israel’s privately owned domestic airline, and Sun D’Or, the El Al-owned charter company.
Har-Lev said his proposal would help the two charter carriers by increasing their capacity, would bring additional tourist revenue into the Treasury and would provide income for El Al. The equipment would have to be returned in time for El Al’s Sunday morning flights.
An Israeli air cargo service, Cal, already operates Boeings leased from El Al to carry agricultural and industrial products to Europe on Saturdays.