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Plane Expensive

The long New York-to-Tel Aviv run turned out to be a short run for Israir, the upstart Israeli air carrier. Two years, to be exact.

Israir Airlines announced last week that it would suspend its Tel Aviv-New York flights as of Sept. 13 — in the run-up to the high-volume High Holy Day season. The carrier said the route was generating little profit in current economic conditions.

In an interview with The Jewish Week Tuesday, Israir CEO Guy Rozen cited the rising costs of fuel, the declining value of the dollar and the prospect of a dip in reservations and income during the upcoming winter season for the route’s cancellation. The flight from Tel Aviv to New York is a much longer trip than those to cities in Europe, such as the three-and-a-half hour flight to Moscow just added in May, he explained. Because the increase in fuel costs affected long flights much more than the shorter flights, the decision to suspend the Tel Aviv-New York route will be a particularly cost-saving decision, according to Rozen.

“Thank God we flew this year,” he said.

Israir isn’t alone in cutting routes, Rozen says. El Al recently froze its long Miami-Tel Aviv run.

Israir first received carrier status to fly along this route in 2006, joining El Al as the only Israeli carriers permitted on the route. From the early 1980s to 2000, Tower Air had also flown the route, but the company fell into bankruptcy.

Despite the close proximity to the Jewish New Year, Israir had to select an end date in early September because all jets are subject to a biannual, prescheduled maintenance, and those planes making the New York-Tel Aviv run were scheduled for later in September in Zurich, Rozen said. The decision meant that several hundred people who had booked reservations for the High Holy Days have now been left up in the air.

Rozen said the company is trying to get them seats on other airlines, though seats are scarce.

Currently, competitor El Al Airlines will continue to fly its 22 weekly nonstop flights from Tel Aviv to New York.

Two American carriers, Continental and Delta, continue to fly along the route.

Rozen said that next year Israir will consider reinstating the Tel Aviv-New York run, should fuel costs come down. For now, though, Israir High Holy Day fliers are trying to forgive the company for leaving them high and dry as Yom Kippur approaches.

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