Israeli Airlines End Strike as Government Agrees to Pay 97.5% of El Al’s Security Costs
El Al Airlines and the Israeli Finance Ministry signed an agreement on Monday afternoon that ended a one-and-a-half day strike by all three Israeli airlines and prevented a wider work stoppage that would have frozen all activity at Israel’s only international aerial gateway, Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel Hayom reported.
According to the agreement, the details of which were hammered out by Finance Ministry employees and El Al representatives, the government will cover 97.5 percent of El Al’s security costs. It previously covered 80 percent of those costs. This amounts to $20 million annually, starting in the summer of 2015, when the recently approved “Open Skies” agreement between Israel and the European Union is fully implemented.
Over a five-year period, the Open Skies agreement lifts restrictions on European airlines serving Israel, thus lowering prices and increasing tourism. Opponents of the agreement, however, charged that it would result in widespread layoffs because Israeli airlines will struggle to compete with European companies.
In resolving the strike, the Israeli government acknowledged El Al’s special needs, resulting from the airline’s heightened sensitivity to terrorist and other security threats. According to the deal, the Israeli government agreed to fund the security costs of all three Israeli airlines—El Al, Arkia, Israir—starting in 2018, an estimated 130 million shekels ($35.8 million) per year.
Over the next three years, the government agreed to inject an additional 5 million shekels ($1.3 million) annually into Israeli airlines to cover additional security costs that would result from the Open Skies agreement.