Will they be playing “Aveinu Shalom Aleichem” in Italian?
The Israeli government has decided to drop national airline El Al in favor of Italy’s Alitalia as its carrier of choice.
After considering the costs, Israel opted to have its civil servants fly Alitalia when they travel on official business, according to Yaron Zalika, accountant general for the Ministry of Finance. Alitalia is reportedly going to provide discounts and other benefits to Israeli public sector employees — savings that could total about $2 million a year. “This is part of the government policy, which started with the privatization of El Al, to purchase tickets based on the cheapest price and not on the basis that it was obliged to buy from El Al as it had been accustomed to doing,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
Michael Mayer, El Al’s CEO of North and Central America, is angry about the decision. “This is an anti-Zionist decision,” he fumed. “Alitalia won’t win.”
Asked about the government’s claim that this was a cost-cutting decision, Mayer acknowledged that flights on El Al can be more expensive than flying with the competition. But he said Israelis would not fly Alitalia because all of its flights from Tel Aviv stop first in Italy. “Non-stop is a better product and people are not ready to go for $100 less with a stop,” Mayer said.Government workers will not be required to fly Alitalia (which made news three years ago when one of its pilots welcomed passengers to “Palestine” when he landed in Tel Aviv) if they can find a better deal elsewhere or one with more convenient scheduling, the ministry said.
Stymied by the government’s decision El Al’s chief executive, Haim Romano, was quoted as saying, “El Al flies the flag of Israel and one can only be astounded by the Ministry of Finance’s failure to honor it.
”Mayer pointed out that the government’s decision comes just as El Al is launching an advertising campaign to convince Americans who postponed their visits to come now. The campaign’s slogan is, “Not just a new year, a better year.”
“We want to bring back business to Israel and tourism, and we’re doing things a national carrier thinks is its mission,” he said.