El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE:ELAL) security department has announced that from Sunday it will not be able to operate all its scheduled flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai, because Israel and the UAE have not reached an agreement on security arrangements for Israeli airlines flying on the route.
The crisis stems from Israel and the UAE not yet signing an aviation agreement, because the security demands of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) for security procedures at Dubai airport have not yet been met.
To date flights by Israeli airlines between Tel Aviv and Dubai have been carried out using temporary approval. But now not only have the two countries failed to reach agreement but the crisis has deepened. The CEOs of the Israeli airlines sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid and Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli saying, "It seems that there is a large gap between our hopes and the reality on the ground. In practice we are experiencing real difficulties in operating the flight schedule of Israeli airlines to Dubai."
The letter claims that from March 8, no approvals will be given to operate the flights of Israeli airlines from Dubai and until then the three Israeli airlines will only be permitted to operate three flights per day. At present El Al, Arkia and Israir each operate three flights a day from Dubai. But Emirates airline flyDubai will continue being allowed to operate between Dubai and Tel Aviv as usual.
Israeli airlines have experienced similar discriminatory problems over security arrangements for many years regarding flights between Israel and Turkey - a route on which they are unable to operate flights. The same thing is happening with flights to Bahrain and is likely to happen with flights to Morocco and Egypt (Sharm el-Sheikh).
The Israeli airlines describe the situation as unacceptable and they are being forced to cancel hundreds of flights, for which tens of thousands of tickets have already been sold.
The Israeli airlines further describe the situation as "discrimination that aggressively harms competition in an attempt to capture market share under the guise of diplomatic considerations."
The implication of these remarks is that Emirates airline and its low-cost subsidiary flyDubai, which also in practice head the UAE civil aviation authority and have the power to decide on landing and takeoff slots at Dubai airport, are causing the crisis.
The letter from the Israeli airlines CEOs concluded, "There is no solution here but a clear failure and surrender to the dictates of commercial bodies, which probably have more influence than us on forming the foreign policy of their government."
It should be stressed that while the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) is trying to emphasize that this is not a diplomatic crisis but a security dispute, this really is a diplomatic crisis that requires the intervention of the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. A situation in which Israeli airlines are discriminated against contradicts the Abraham Accords, which includes a clause about aviation between the two countries, and it is a problem not only for the activities of the airlines but also passengers.
The solution proposed by the Israeli airlines is for an agreement that the Dubai administration approve the allocation of additional security tags for Israeli security staff at Dubai airport and to set mutual and equal competition for airlines on the route - in other words if the operations of Israeli airlines are restricted, the operations of Emirati airlines will also be restricted.
The UAE says that the cut to three flights per day stems from the shortage of sufficient manpower to comply with Israeli security requirements regarding outbound flights from Dubai to Israel. They insist this is a temporary solution to allow the continued negotiations to find a suitable permanent solution.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 10, 2022.
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