Israeli airline Arkia Airlines Ltd. today announced that it would introduce flights to two destinations in India: Goa and Cochin in the state of Kerala. Arkia is joining El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL), which operates direct flights to Mumbai, and Air India, which flies from Tel Aviv to Delhi on a shorter route passing above Saudi Arabia.
Arkia will operate the new flights from September 2019 using recently acquired Airbus 321neoLR airliners. Flights will take seven hours and will take place all year round, except for the summer in Israel, which is the monsoon season in India.
The flight to Goa will take off on Tuesdays, while there will be two weekly flights to Cochin. Flights will take off on Mondays and Fridays in September-October, and on Sundays and Thursdays starting on October 27.
Since the frequency of the flights does not meet the criteria for obtaining grants from the Ministry of Tourism for operating flights to new destinations, Arkia will not receive a grant. A year ago, Arkia began direct flights to Bangkok, thereby ending El Al's monopoly on direct flights from Tel Aviv to Thailand.
The airliners to be used for the flights to India have 220 seats. The flights will include full flight service. The entertainment system on flights uses an app for viewing on a passenger's personal device (bring your own device).
Sales of tickets for the flights will begin on March 24. Arkia stated that prices would begin at $250 in each direction to and from Cochin and $300 in each direction to and from Goa.
Arkia CEO Nir Dagan said that the airline would offer direct access "to preferred destinations at equal prices for everyone… For India, the state of Kerala, and the destinations that we selected have been the dream of Israelis from all parts of the tourist spectrum."
Arkia International CEO Oz Berlowitz added, "In addition to the organized tours and vacations, Arkia will also offer continuation flights to a variety of Far Eastern destinations."
Air India carried 58,000 roundtrip passengers on the Tel Aviv-Delhi route in 2018. Passenger traffic on the direct routes between Tel Aviv and India totaled 116,000 passengers in 2018, double the preceding year, which means that El Al carried the same number of passengers to and from India on its routes. Many Israelis also travel to India on indirect flights, passing through Istanbul as an intermediate stop, for example.
Commenting on Arkia's announcement and its entry as a registered carrier on a route to India, Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz said that the new flights would significantly increase the number of passengers on routes to India and lower prices to another of Israeli passengers' preferred destinations.
Austrian Airlines has announced that it will increase the frequency of its flights between Tel Aviv and Vienna from 18 weekly flights to 21 weekly flights, starting on February 17.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 11, 2019
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