The Ministry of Transport will tomorrow publish a tender for the operating of regular flights between Sde Dov in Tel Aviv and the Mahanayim airfield near Rosh Pina in the Upper Galilee. The tender winner will operate four daily flights, two in each direction, on the route. Any Israeli airlines with an operating license and with planes of at least ten-seat capacity can participate in the tender.
The ministry will announce the tender winner in mid-November, and the winner will begin flights a month later. The tender criteria will be fares and frequency of flights. The maximum fare will be NIS 185 for a resident of the north or NIS 260 for other passengers. The Ministry of Transport will subsidize fares for northern residents.
Until now, this subsidy has been only NIS 20 per ticket, which the ministry plans to quintuple to NIS 100.
Arkia Airlines Ltd. operated the Tel Aviv-Rosh Pina and Kiryat Shmona routes until two years ago. The route was considered very profitable because of the many IDF soldiers and officers who headed north when the IDF was operating in Lebanon. The number of passengers plummeted following the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and Arkia cancelled the route.
Over a year ago, the Ministry of Transport published a tender for the route, which was won by Tamir Aviation. A few days after the win, a dispute erupted between the airline and the operator of the Kiryat Shmona airfield, whom Tamir Aviation was demanding too much for landing rights. The airline appealed to the ministry to intervene, but the dispute was never settled. Tamir ultimately refused to pay the landing fees and canceled flights to the town. A few months later, it stopped flying to Rosh Pina as well.
Minister of Transport Shaul Mofaz said that maintaining an air link to the Upper Galilee was part of the program to strengthen the region. He added that he wanted the flights to resume soon.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on October 10, 2007
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