El Al CEO Claims Airline Can’t Join Alliance Due To Anti-Semitism … What?

El Al, Israeli’s national flag carrier, has been facing tough economic times. The airline faces continual competition from larger regional competitors; rising fuel costs and geo-political issues impacting is business.   It is no secret that Israel has few friends in the region, but the airline is a vital economic link for the country.

 

As the airline industry has grown closer together through the creation of airline alliances, El Al has found itself unsuccessfully looking for a chair during the industry game of musical chairs.  While there are many factors as to why El Al is not currently attractive to an alliance, the reason El Al’s CEO, Eliezer Shkedi, stated to Israel’s Knesset Economic Affairs Committee today seems to be focused on creating a divide than bridging a path.

 

Today as Mr. Shkedi addressed the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on economic factors impacting El Al he stated “We are unable to join any alliance because we’re Jews, not due to any economic reason.”

 

Mr. Shkedi blaming Anti-Semitizam for El Al’s lack of alliance ties negates a number of important factors.    Aside from the deep-rooted geo-political issues impacting Israel regionally, overall the airline has no place in the three global airline alliances.   Star Alliance has Egyptair, which serves Tel Aviv via its Air Sinai subsidiary; One World has Royal Jordanian, which serves Tel Aviv; Sky Team has Saudi Arabian Airlines joining shortly and is able to serve Tel Aviv through multiple points of entry.    El Al geographic position would have it directly competing with airlines from neighboring nations.

 

 

Aside from El Al’s inability to fit into an airline alliance, the airline has a small fleet of 40 aircraft and a relatively small route network.   Despite the airline’s location in the Middle East, El Al only serves one foreign destination in the region, Cairo.

 

El Al’s CEO claiming the airline cannot join an alliance because “we’re Jews” … makes for a great show stopping line, but it leaves out many important factors.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

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Comments

  1. This is a tricky one.

    I don’t really buy the concern about the other alliances already have members in the region, and connecting in would be easy. Is so, Star should drop one of LH, LX or OS.

    You make mention of SkyTeam partner SV being able to serve TLV via “multiple points of entry.” Huh? No Saudi carrier will be serving TLV any time soon!!

    The biggest challenge out there is the security issue. It can take hours to clear security at TLV. El Al is simply not a good connecting airline. Carriers from all three alliances have codeshare arrangements with the carrier. But imagine booking a trip and having a connection in TLV? It would need to be a four hour minimum connecting time!

  2. This is a pretty ignorant post. The alliances are filled with carriers smaller than El Al and with multiple carriers from the same region (even the same country — US and UA in Star, for example). Israelis are barred by most of their neighbors from traveling to their countries, their athletes are refused entry to regional sporting events, and there is an active boycott by many of their neighbors of countries that do business with Israel. While I perceive no anti-semitism in most of the larger carriers (particularly the American ones), it is foolish to believe that from a dollars and cents standpoint, alliances avoid El Al to avoid antagonizing existing or potential future partners in the region who would not do business with them. Do you really believe that Saudi Arabian Airlines – from a country that is one of the leaders of the Arab boycott – wouldn’t drop out of SkyTeam in a heartbeat (and would have never joined in the first place) if El Al were in that alliance?

  3. Stupid CEO, highly corrupt and inefficient airline….giving lame excuses to cover their inefficiency and corrupion…

  4. Jim,

    All the airline alliances have multiple airlines that service TLV, however Star Alliance’s Egyptair and OneWorld’s Royal Jordanian both are direct regional competitors to El A and service the region with connections to TLV.

    Lufthansa and other European carriers must service TLV from a distance. This does put Skyteam at a disadvantage. Even with Saudia entering the alliance, serving TLV from a regional perspective is an issue, but in the scheme the global picture, it has little impact on the network or revenue.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  5. Also this airline does not fly on Passover and this has been an issue of content for alliances for a long time . Flight global wrote about this in 2010

  6. Al613,

    The overall issue with El Al is not that they are Jews (I am Jewish by the way). It is a geo-political issue stemming back to the organization of Israel in 1947. At the time Israel was established the nation was supposed to be divided into two states linked in a unified economy. The United Nations General Assembly’s majority voted to parcel Israel into a two sections with 43% being an Arab State and 57% being a Jewish State, as we know once Israel was fully established by the United Nations the land allocation was no where near what was proposed by the U.N. or voted on by the General Assembly.

    Given that the population of Israel was less than 50% Jewish at the time the land was allocated internally by the U.N., and that the creation of this new nation pushed Arabs out of land they had previously called home, a tremendous rift was created in the Middle East. The on going geo-political strife, while taking religious overtones is not purely a religious argument, it is an argument over land, space and the United Nations altering what had been agreed upon once Israel was established. Saying it is purely because “we’re Jewish” is over simplifying a complex long standing political turf war.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  7. E,

    Delta and US Airways service TLV from the U.S. and offer no regional onward connections into the region. Continental Airlines no longer exists, however United Airlines continues to serve T:V from Newark.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  8. NYBanker,

    Star Alliance does include LH, LX, OS … and all of those airlines are owned by Lufthansa.

    SkyTeam offers multiple points of entry into TLV and connections into the region via Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Aeroflot. These airlines cover a wide range of business and tourism destinations in the region from Europe. As for Saudia flying to Israel, it will not happen, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel Officially, although in the past year or so they have issued special visas (via their Embassy in Amman I believe) for Israeli’s to enter The Kingdom, although I do not recall what the special circumstances were.

    I have, in venues other than my blog, brought up the fact that TLV would be a nightmare hub for connections. Passengers having to clear Israeli Immigrations, then security, to catch a connecting flight would require at a minimum two hours (if they established an expedited transfer scheme), if not longer … but then look at where El Al flies, all its destinations are better served by the Euro, North American and African carriers.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  9. Jeff,

    You cannot use airlines in the United States as an example for airline overlap in an alliance. The United States is large country, with hundreds of destination points. United and US Airways have minimal overlap and there is enough business for them both … as well as Air Canada.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  10. Rocky,

    El Al does not fly on the Sabbath, Passover and the high holidays. This is why they had established Sun D’or, which had its operating license revoked, forcing the subsidiary to merge back into El Al. I wrote about this a little while back here – http://bit.ly/hXnQnd

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  11. @flyingfish The day Israel was created it was attacked by the arab armies of ALL neighboring and far away (like Iraq and Tunisia) states. Jewish people lived through a lot of antisemitism – Egypt, Greece, Rome, Catholic Europe, Hitler, USSR just to name a few. Each one had it’s own economic and political “reasons”, but for some reason they all ended up hating Jews the same way arab suicide bombers and their Saudi sponsors hate us today.

  12. EEK

    My self hatred of my Jewish identity? I have no self hatred and am proud of my heritage. I do not however place my religion in front of me when there are other factors at play.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  13. I actually know execs at el al and have interacted quite extensively with them. It seems clear to me that they will have significant difficulty joining and alliance and that the best the can do is operate interline and codeshare agreements with key feeders in the markets they fly to/from. They have no problem filling their flights and are often overbooked. An alliance membership would be a difficult issue. Lastly ElAl to my knowledge has no aspiration to be an emirates or eithad competitor. Due to tlv security they can’t ever be a good connection point. Not easy when most of the neighborhood wants to wipe you of the map.

  14. I don’t endorse any of the “self-hatred” type comments and do not suggest you are any less Jewish for having these views, but I do think that your account of 1947-48 is very inaccurate historically. Among other reasons, Israel’s final armistice borders were formed as a result of a war it did not want and after it prevented its annihilation. To characterize the eventual borders as being the result of the Israelis going back on what everyone agreed upon could not be more wrong.

    The Arab boycott is, unfortunately, very real and money talks — the alliances are not going to forsake some of the regional partners they have or want for a partnership with El Al that would cause those partners to flee. El Al may also have management problems or flight limitations (although not flying a few days here and there is irrelevant in my view — why is it much different than an airline who only flies a particular route on MWFSu, for example?), but regardless of those problems, El Al simply won’t ever be a candidate for an alliance that covets Saudi Arabian Airlines, Etihad or a half dozen others. Can you really see any chance that they’d code share with El Al in today’s world?

  15. @J –
    You clearly know your history very well (much better than me), but I believe you’re misreading Stephen’s earlier comment. He stated explicitly that the UN – not Isreal – going back on the original land agreement. Emphasis (via caps) is mine.

    “Given that the population of Israel was less than 50% Jewish at the time the land was ALLOCATED INTERNALLY BY THE U.N., and that the creation of this new nation pushed Arabs out of land they had previously called home, a tremendous rift was created in the Middle East. The on going geo-political strife, while taking religious overtones is not purely a religious argument, it is an argument over land, space and THE UNITED NATIONS ALTERING WHAT HAD BEEN AGREED UPON once Israel was established.”

  16. Interesting discussion.

    I agree that El Al are excluded because of a desire not to offend the Arabs. I don’t think that it is an airline issue, by the way. I think it is because almost all of the countries who are oil producers hate Israel. The issue is economic and political rather than an aviation issue (though I do think that a 4-hour layover in Tel Aviv because of the need to secure the aircraft and the passengers is a problem.)

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