MOSCOW (JTA) — Air travel between Moscow and Tel Aviv increased more than threefold since the two countries began a visa-free regime, Russia’s ambassador to Israel said.
The visa-free flow of Russians to Israel has caused few problems since it began in September. The Israeli government expects the number of Russian visitors to increase fivefold next year. But the increase in travelers has led to scuffles over which air companies should provide flights between the two countries.
Only one Russian has been turned away at the Israeli border because the traveler lacked sufficient funds for the trip, said Pyotr Stegny, Russia’s ambassador to Israel.
"At the airport, Israeli immigration and customs officials have established a friendly environment," Stegny told the Russian newspaper Vremya Novostey.
The increased passenger load has led to a bottleneck in charter and international flights. On Oct. 30, a Russian aircraft was refused permission to land by Israeli authorities and delayed several hours.
Israeli officials said it would be difficult to allow more flights from Russia if Russia does not allow Israeli companies to conduct charter flights, Vremya Novostey reported.
"At this point we have agreed to allow temporary Israeli charter flights and they will allow Russian flights, for which tickets are already sold," Stegny said.
Russian and Israeli officials will meet later this week in an attempt to sort out the details of increased flight traffic between the two countries.