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Israeli airline workers end strike over 'open skies' agreement

April 22, 2013|By Batsheva Sobelman
  • A passenger sleeps in a departure lounge at Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv. Flights were temporarily grounded during a strike.
A passenger sleeps in a departure lounge at Ben Gurion International Airport… (Jim Hollander / European…)

JERUSALEM -- Israeli airline workers called an end Monday to a strike, which had disrupted dozens of flights and stranded passengers, after reaching an agreement with the government over its “open skies” accord with the European Union.

Three Israeli airlines -- El Al, Arkia and Israir -- canceled most of their flights because of the workers' action in response to Sunday's accord, which will give European carriers greater access to the lucrative Israeli tourism market. 

The government argued that the arrangement with the EU would liberalize the commercial flight market, boost tourism and generate economic growth. But airline employees voiced concern that their Israeli companies, which say they are burdened with higher security costs, would not be able to compete against cheaper European carriers.

Monday's deal averted even more disruption Tuesday, when airport authority employees had planned to walk out in solidarity with airline workers, shutting down Ben Gurion International Airport to all flights for several hours.

According to Israeli news reports, treasury officials agreed to cover 97.5% of El Al's security costs, rather than 80% as previously planned. In return, El Al will take measures to streamline operations and bring down the cost of providing security to the three airlines, currently estimated at about $130 million a year.

El Al said it would resume flights Monday night. For passenger information, see the Israel Airports Authority website.

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