The third edition of the Airline Economics Growth Frontiers Conference was held at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv on June 7. This was the sixth Growth Frontiers event to happen this year, with previous events in 2023 being held in Seoul, New Delhi, Tokyo, Dublin, and Miami.
The event brought together industry leaders, aviation experts, and other stakeholders to discuss important topics in the aviation industry. These topics included aircraft and engine and leasing, fuel prices, and the impact of global economic conditions on the aviation market.
Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer - three of the world's largest aircraft manufacturers - shared their forecasts for the next 10 to 20 years at the conference. The goal of the projections was to help the conference attendees acquire a deeper understanding of market conditions.
Dina Ben Tal from El Al, Uri Sirkis from Israir, and Gadi Tepper of Arkia - the CEOs of Israel's three largest airlines - also attended the conference.
The CEOs and other aviation experts shared their knowledge and perspectives on the current investment climate, placing a particular focus on midlife aircraft and engines.
Ran Ackerman, MK Aviation's Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Asia and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), spoke about the global trends that affect investment decisions in the industry. He also chaired the conference and moderated the panel on Aircraft and Engines Investment.
Aside from the conference, representatives from El Al attended the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on June 5 to celebrate the airline's 75th anniversary.
El Al was launched by Israel's first president Chaim Weizmann because he could not find a return flight from Geneva to Israel. Weizmann was originally planning to fly in an Israeli government aircraft, but that was not possible due to an embargo that was placed on Israel at the time.
A team in Israel decided to convert a C-54 military aircraft to a civilian plane so that Weizmann could be transported home. The transformation involved painting the aircraft with the logo of the El Al/Israel National Aviation Company and adding extra fuel tanks to support a longer distance.
The aircraft was brought to Switzerland on September 28, 1948, and transported Weizmann back to Israel the next day. Even though that specific aircraft was repainted and returned to military use, the idea of a national airline stuck.
On November 15, 1948, El Al was officially incorporated as an airline and became Israel's flag carrier. Officials from El Al reflected on the airline's history over the past 75 years at the conference in New York.
El Al's General Counsel Sharon Brownstone said, "El Al has been involved in all of the major history events of the State of Israel. We brought to Israel thousands of immigrants from all over the world. We organized rescue flights to help stranded Israelis. We continued to operate during military emergencies, when every other airline refused to land or depart from Israel."
Brownstone also discussed El Al's strategic plans for the next five years. The plan involves the following three pillars:
- Targeting 7.5 million passengers annually
- Providing passengers with a better experience by partnering with Issta, which is one of Israel's major tour operators
- Adding more Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to replace old 737 aircraft
Finally, Brownstone spoke about the ability of El Al aircraft to fly over the airspace of Arab countries. Even though El Al is now allowed to fly over Saudi Arabia and Oman, the only other Middle Eastern destination that the airline currently serves is Dubai International Airport (DXB).
Whether El Al will be able to serve other destinations in the Middle East remains to be seen. Passengers have only a few options in terms of flying directly to Arab countries from Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV).
These are the routes on other airlines that passengers can take:
- Royal Jordanian Airlines to Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
- Gulf Air and Israir to Bahrain International Airport (BAH)
- Etihad Airways and Wizz Air to Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
- Egyptair to Cairo International Airport (CAI)
- Arkia, Emirates, flydubai, and Israir to Dubai
The prospect of additional nonstop flights between Israel and the Arab world is most likely dependent on the status of Palestine. The majority of Arab countries do not offer direct flights to Israel due to the country's occupation of the Palestinian territories, which is considered illegal by international law.
If El Al were to launch more flights to the Arab world in the future, it would likely be to countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel. The specific countries that would allow such flights are currently unknown since it largely depends on U.S. foreign policy in the region.
Airlines are allowed to fly from Israel to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as a result of the Abraham Accords that the U.S. created in September 2020.
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