The flag carrier of Israel, El Al, is “likely to close” if the government does not provide financial assistance in the coming days, airline chairman Eli Defes warned on Monday. The airline has suspended all regular passenger traffic but is still operating some humanitarian flights.
$350 million rescue package
As reported by the Jerusalem Post, in an address to Israel’s parliament Knesset’s special committee on dealing with coronavirus on Monday, El Al chairman Eli Defes said that the airline was in urgent need of assistance. Furthermore, he stated that the airline had already requested that the Finance Ministry come to its aid with a package worth $350 million.
“El Al entered the crisis before all the other companies, and its $200m. revenue cycle stopped entirely,” said Defes. “El Al is spread out over 30 locations worldwide. If we do not receive immediate help, within the next few days, El Al is likely to close.”
Airlift operation of medical equipment
The already struggling airline has suspended all regular flights since the 26th of March but is still operating humanitarian flights in coordination with the Israeli Foreign and Defense Ministries.
According to the Times of Israel, the first plane carrying 20 tonnes of medical equipment from China, including masks and protective suits, landed at Ben Gurion Airport in the early hours of Monday morning, with another aircraft en route.
In all, 11 of these El Al flights will be operated with the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Boeing 777 passenger planes, bringing millions of medical supply items, including ventilators, to Israel over the coming days. The task of securing much-needed medical equipment from abroad has been given to the Israeli intelligence services, Mossad.
Israir and CAL Cargo Airlines are also participating in the airlift. Israir’s Airbus A320 was unable to make the flight to China on one tank and had to land for refueling at Alma-Ati in Kazakhstan. A video from one of the planes, stacked with boxes of equipment on the seats normally reserved for passengers, has been posted to Twitter.
— shimon yaish שמעון יעיש (@shimonyaish) April 6, 2020
Historic humanitarian flight
Another of El Al’s humanitarian flights made history last week as it operated a repatriation flight from Melbourne, Australia, flying for 17 hours and 15 minutes, said to be the longest flight in Israeli aviation. The plane had a crew of 8 pilots and 11 cabin crew, none of whom left the plane while in Australia. Other rescue flights have been operated to Lima (Peru), Bogota (Colombia), Delhi (India) and Perth (Australia).
Talks have been ongoing between the Finance Ministry and Israeli airlines for approximately two months. While airlines Israir and Arkia meet the criteria to receive assistance from the government’s loan fund for large companies, the size of El Al’s operations requires separate negotiations.
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