El Al could lease Sun D'Or Saturday flights

From this weekend, passengers may be able to buy a ticket on Sun D'Or, fly an El Al plane, and be listed as flying Arkia or Israir.

In a last-ditch effort to prevent the grounding of its charter subsidiary Sun D'Or International Airlines Ltd. on Saturdays, El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) may lease Sun D'Or planes to and crews to other airlines, most likely Arkia Airlines Ltd. or Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd. The idea, which has not yet been approved, could come into effect this weekend.

This solution would not involve returning Sun D'Or's operating license.

Earlier this month, the Israel Civil Aviation Authority revoked Sun D'Or's operating license, which will come into effect tomorrow, April 1. A year ago, the Civil Aviation Authority notified Sun D'Or that it was not in compliance with aviation regulations because it was entirely dependent on El Al's infrastructure.

Sun D'Or operates three Boeing 757 and El Al air crews. It operates as a designated carrier to European destinations, and carries out flights for El Al on the Saturdays and holidays. This enabled El Al to keep its 30-year plus status-quo with religious and haredi (ultra-orthodox) passengers by not flying on the Sabbath.

Aviation industry sources have mixed feelings about the proposed solution. The Civil Aviation Authority said, "So long as they operate according to professional criteria, there is nothing to prevent the leasing."

However, a source close to the issue told "Globes", "This won't last, and it isn't a solution that will save them - buy a ticket on Sun D'Or, fly an El Al plane, and be listed as a passenger of a third airline."

El Al has not made any announcement on the matter. Arkia and Israir were unavailable for comment.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 31, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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