Full air services agreement lets El Al spread its wings
El Al Israel Airlines will be flying higher than ever in the Asian region after signing a full air services agreement with Hong Kong.
On March 19, 3.5 years after the airline began its first scheduled charter flights to Hong Kong, Consul General Zohar Raz and Hong Kong Secretary for Economic Services Stephen Ip Shu-kwan put their signatures to the new documents.
The treaty, which gives the airline full landing rights and allows it to advertise its scheduled services, makes Israel only the fourth country since the change of sovereignty to sign a new air agreement directly with the SAR.
El Al chairman Joseph Ciechanover, who flew in to witness the signing, hailed the agreement as a positive step on the airline's route to Asian expansion.
'It is a great day for El Al. We have signed an agreement with the local aviation authorities for our two-flights-a-week service,' he said. 'We hope in a short time to be able to rise from two flights a week. There is a demand for it, both in cargo and in passengers.' Abraham Roter, the airline's general manager for the region, was jubilant.
'It is a really significant achievement. We are going to intensify our operations here,' he said.
For Mr Roter, the future lies in promoting Israel as a tourist destination from Hong Kong and selling Tel Aviv as a hub for onward flights to Turkey, eastern and western Europe and the Middle East.
Israel itself, as the birthplace of Jesus Christ and the setting for the events of the Old and New Testaments, attracts Christian pilgrims from all over the world.
Japanese tourists, in particular, love to visit Israel just to see the magnificent Dead Sea.
The Middle East Peace Process has opened up new destinations for Israel, offering tourists multi- destination packages.
'We now have 60 destinations worldwide. We have good connections . . . any agent willing to invest in a little promotion could offer a really good multi-destination package,' he said.