Israel’s El Al airline has stopped all flights to and from Cairo. The head of the Egyptian Civil Airline Authority, Mohammed al-Sharif, said on Monday that El Al stopped flights between Egypt and Israel more than a year ago because of the sharp decline in the number of travellers after the Arab Spring revolution.
Al-Sharif said that since then there has been one irregular flight a week instead of the three scheduled flights pre-revolution. “The decision to stop all El Al flights is for an unspecified period,” he added.
According to Maariv newspaper, El Al officials wrote to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to say that costly security requirements and high operational costs with almost empty aircraft make the route economically unviable.
Justifying the decision, El Al’s CEO Eliezer Shakedi told Lieberman, “Without any commercial justification and in light of the high economic cost of operating this line, El Al cannot continue to bear these heavy expenses, and therefore is intending to stop operating the route to Cairo immediately.” He pointed out that the flights were “almost empty” and if the airline were to continue operating them, “it would need assurances about which government body would help foot the bill”.
Egyptian sources said that the only airline now operating between Israel and Cairo is Air Sinai, which is also suffering from a sharp decline in the number of travellers.
Observers fear that an end to regular flights between Egypt and Israel will widen the gap between the two countries. After the revolution which ousted Mubarak – described by Israel as its “best strategic ally” – Tel Aviv has been concerned about the future of the landmark peace agreement signed with Egypt in 1979.