Israel to Allow Israir to Compete with El Al

In a surprise announcement, Israel said Monday that local airline Israir will be allowed to compete with El Al Israel Airlines on flights between Tel Aviv and New York. Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson told reporters at a press conference that the increase in passengers on the transatlantic route has resulted in the need for an additional designated carrier. Hirchson said the decision will meet customer demand and possibly lower pricing. El Al pledged to fight the decision legally and described the action as "gross breach of the commitment" given by the government to the new owners of the privatized El Al. Hirchson told reporters that Israir will get the designated carrier permit for the route for two years starting immediately. Until today, El Al was the only Israeli designated carrier for the route. Continental Airlines flies two daily non-stop flights between Tel Aviv and Newark, and Delta Air Lines is expected to resume direct flights to the United States in the spring. Founded in 1996, Israir currently flies charter flights to New York.

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