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El Al President Speaks at First U.S. Press ConferenceNovember 2, 2010 By: Jena Tesse Fox
It's been less than a year since Elyezer Shkedy took over as president and CEO of Israel's El Al Airlines and, at his debut U.S. press conference, he announced that he would put everything on the table—"loud, clear and simple," he said.
There was plenty of good news to share, starting with the airline's 460 weekly worldwide departures (39 of which are between New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Sao Paulo). Shkedy noted he is currently making progress in developing partnerships with other major carriers flying to Brazil, China, India, and Russia. El Al and Air China have already signed an agreement to ease travel between these two countries. On the other hand, several countries around the state (such as Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran) have no-fly laws that add time to El Al flights and can potentially make travel difficult.
While El Al is not part of any major airline alliance, Shkedy acknowledged, he is working to join one. "You don't know me, but I don't give up," the former Commander-in-Chief of the Israeli Air Force said. The challenges in joining an alliance, he said, were not financial, but political. However, the airline has launched a partnership with JetBlue Airways as well as the existing code share agreement with American Airlines.
There are also new flights to Eliat, a popular beach resort on the Red Sea in southern Israel, three times a day Sunday through Thursday and daily on Friday morning and Saturday evening. Bonus: Passengers flying roundtrip to Israel from the U.S. can add roundtrip tickets to Eliat for $40, making for an easy day-trip.
In spite of demand, Shkedy said that the airline would not begin flying on the Sabbath (Friday evening to Saturday evening), and would continue to serve only kosher meals for guests. "We are the wings of Israel and the Jewish nation," he said, quoting the airline's tagline, and while he added that he is not particularly religious himself, he felt obligated to have the airline reflect the Jewish culture of the Jewish state.