El Al’s launches its low-cost carrier UP in late March

UP airlines will operate 36 discount flights to 5 European cities starting this spring. Just remember to bring your own lunch.



Cheap flights to Berlin, Budapest and three other European cities will be available 36 times a week when El Al Airlines’ new low-cost carrier takes to the air for the first time March 30, El Al announced Monday.

El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi

El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi at the launch of UP, the airline’s new, low-cost brand. – Photo: Ofer Vaknin

The number of flights offered by the discount brand, called UP, will jump to 52 a week in July and August.

Be warned that you might want to pack your own lunch — but not too much else — if you plan to take full advantage of the low cost, which El Al said late last year would start at $69 for one-way fares. Food, drinks and checked baggage cost extra.

Destinations will include Kiev, Prague and the Cypriot city of Larnaca.

Israel’s flagship carrier is introducing low-cost service as competition in the aviation market heats up after Israel and the European Union signed an Open Skies agreement last year, allowing more carriers and more flight to ply routes. The UP flights will have just two classes: economy and economy plus.

In related news, the non-Israeli airline that flew the largest number of passengers through Ben-Gurion International Airport in January was Turkish Airlines, which saw a 77% jump in passengers going through Israel’s main airport over the past year, according to figures released Monday by the Israel Airports Authority.

Turkish Airlines carried more than 54,000 passengers last month, second only to El Al.

Calling the competition from Turkey unfair, Eliezer Shkedy, who is due to step down shortly as El Al’s CEO, accused the Civil Aviation Authority of making it impossible for the Israeli airline to end the four-year freeze on flights to Turkey on April 1, as planned.

“We view the government and the CAA as the parties responsible for the whole issue regarding the Turks,” said Shkedy in a letter to aviation authority director Giora Romm. “It isn’t fair to place the onus on El Al’s security division, which isn’t an autonomous representative of the Israeli government.”

El Al and Israel’s other airlines have not been able to operate a route to Turkey since Ankara refused four years ago to approve their security procedures, but Turkish carriers continue to fly to Israel.

The two sides have since agreed to settle the dispute, and El Al is planning to fly to Istanbul, Antalya and Marmaris. Shkedy called on the Civil Aviation Authority to block approval of any additional flights by Turkish airlines until Israeli carriers can to fly to Turkey.

Israel’s three airlines are flying more than one-third of all passengers going through Ben-Gurion, the Israel Airports Authority figures showed.

El Al, Israir and Arkia flew 307,500 passengers in and out of the airport, in a 6% increase over January of last year that accounted for 37% of all fliers.

But the rate of growth for all international passengers was more than double that, reaching 12.9% in the same period.


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