Last month Cathay Pacific airlines – ranked the best airline in the world – announced that it would start flying direct between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv starting in March 2017. The airline will be flying four flights a week on their brand new Airbus A350s.
A short while later, the president of the Indian national carrier, Air India, announced that they too would begin flying direct to Israel in 2017.
The president of the airline, Ashwani Lohani, is opening up the new line in an effort to improve service in the company, following a similar formula to how India improved its railway system.
Challenging the monopoly
These two pieces of news are huge for Israeli travelers, but less so for Israeli airlines. The open skies policy instituted by Transport Minister Israel Katz – with the help of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Tourism – have begun to bear fruit. It has brought east Asia closer to Israel, and has done what El AL believed was impossible – started challenging the monopoly on routes to east Asia from Israel.
Additionally, Chinese Hainan Airlines began flying between Israel and Beijing in April. This is another break in El Al’s monopoly on the line, and the Chinese airline is cheaper than El Al as well.
After El Al held an almost exclusive right to the line, now 60% of Israeli passengers are choosing to fly with Hainan. There are also rumors that Hainan will start a new direct route between Shanghai and Tel Aviv
Big in Japan
And that’s not all. Singapore Airlines – another one of the best airlines in the world – is looking into flying a direct route to Israel. Japan Airlines is doing the same. Minister Katz and the Japanese ambassador to Israel even recently signed a joint aviation agreement between the two countries. However, as of now, El Al has no intention of creating an Israel-Tokyo route.
The airlines will be joining South Korean airline Korean Air, which has been flying direct between Seoul and Tel Aviv since 2008.
This is expected to be only the first wave of east Asian airlines to be coming to Israel in an effort to bring the Jewish state closer to the east.
By Amit Kotler and Danny Sadeh, Ynet News