Saudi-Oman corridor to open for Israeli flights ‘within days’ – El Al CEO

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FLOWERS AND a card are placed at El Al’s ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport in July 2002, after a gunman killed two people and injured several more before an El Al security guard shot him dead. (photo credit: ADREES LATIF/REUTERS)

El Al and smaller Israeli rival Arkia later said they had applied for permission to fly over both Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Permission for flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines to fly over Oman is expected in “a matter of days”, chief executive Dina Ben-Tal said on Thursday.

Ben-Tal, speaking to reporters after El Al issued second-quarter financial results, said the airline had already received approval to fly over Saudi Arabia but it also needed to fly over Oman to save time for routes to Asia.

Last month, Saudi Arabia said it would open its airspace to all air carriers. El Al and smaller Israeli rival Arkia later said they had applied for permission to fly over both Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Opening Saudi airspace to flights to and from Israel was a focus of US President Joe Biden’s tour last month of the countries, which do not have formal ties.

“It’s not just Saudi Arabia. We need the full route to be approved.”

El Al chief executive Dina Ben-Tal

“It’s not just Saudi Arabia. We need the full route to be approved,” Ben-Tal said.

Once fully approved, it would cut about 2-1/2 hours from flights to India and Thailand and save fuel costs. Present routes to those popular destinations bypass Saudi airspace by flying south over the Red Sea around Yemen.

“We are planning to reschedule our network around that new (shorter) route,” Ben-Tal said, adding that El Al was also looking into new nonstop routes to destinations such as Australia. “It definitely will have a huge efficiency (benefit) around our network.”

Israel’s El Al airline bounces back

El Al showed a strong improvement in the second quarter after it was hit hard in earlier periods by the coronavirus pandemic that largely closed Israel’s borders to foreigners.

It said it had earned net profit of $100 million in the April-June period, versus a loss of $81 million a year earlier. Excluding a large one-time gain from the sale of its frequent flier club, El Al recorded a $15 million net loss on a jump in fuel costs.

Revenue rose to $516 million from $223 million a year before, although that was still below $584 million in the second quarter of 2019, before the COVID-19 crisis began. Load factor rose to 81.5% from 67% last year.

To meet demand on long-haul routes, El Al said it planned to add a 16th Boeing 787 in 2023 while it also began to restore older Boeing 777s to the skies.

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