Israel is fiercely protective of its State Airline, El Al … and not just in terms of its superior operational security … but also when it comes to protecting the airline’s financial interest. Israel’s protection of El Al is now creating a rift with one of the few nations in the Middle East that Israel has normalized relations with, Jordan.
A new bilateral aviation agreement between Israel and Jordan is barely a few months old, signed in August of this year, and already there are problems. The Civil Aviation Authority of Israel has refused to approve Royal Jordanian Airlines winter schedule for this year, for the Amman-Tel Aviv route. Under the newly signed agreement Royal Jordanian is not bound by the number of flights, as is the case with most international agreements, they are bound by the number of revenue seats the airlines can fly between Amman and Tel-Aviv, with a cap at 1,500 seats per week.
Currently Royal Jordanian services Tel Aviv twice daily, most days, and they are seeking to increase this schedule to three times daily, while El Al does not presently serve Amman. Based on seat capacity, the twice-daily service flies 1,470 revenue seats per week with a mix of Embraer 195 and Airbus A319 aircraft. Should Royal Jordanian switch to a three times daily schedule flying the Embraer 175 with 1,386 revenue seats, adding in either the A319 or E195 selectively, they’ll provide better coverage to their passengers while remaining under the 1,500 seats per week limit.
Israel’s primary problem with Royal Jordanian’s winter schedule of three flights per day, ever day, is that the Government believes El Al is losing passengers to Royal Jordanian … especially on the lucrative routes to the Far East.
Israel’s rational is flawed in this regard, as Royal Jordanian presently services Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur where as El Al only serves Beijing and Hong Kong. On the routes the two airlines directly compete for, Royal Jordanian tends to offer a lower fare on average and offers its passengers potential onward connections through its OneWorld Alliance partners, where as El Al is no longer in an alliance.
While Israel has every right to protect its National Flag carrier … all it is potentially doing is damaging Arkia Airlines, the lesser known of the two Israeli airlines. Arkia Airlines serves the Amman – Tel-Aviv route seasonally, serves no destinations in Asia and has no code-share agreements … and by Israel blocking Royal Jordanian’s winter schedule. Jordan may block Arkia from flying the Amman – Tel-Aviv route until this situation is resolved.
Israel entered into its agreement with Jordan with its eyes wide open, it agreed to the terms and its reasoning for presently blocking Royal Jordanian’s winter schedule is not only going against the spirit of the bilateral aviation agreement … but it is ultimately unfounded and potentially detrimental to one of its own national airlines.