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“open Skies” Pact Causing Havoc In Israel
Israel’s approval of a new “Open Skies” aviation deal with the European Union will increase the availability of cheap fares, including cheap airplane tickets, cheap vacation packages, and discount travel packages. Employees for the country’s three airlines responded by launching a strike.
Union officials say this agreement will threaten union jobs because Israel’s airlines operate small fleets and have high security costs making it hard to compete.
Thousands of travelers have been stranded in Israel as a result of this strike. El Al, Israel’s national airline, reported 15,000 passengers being stranded the second day of the strike. Travelers who are unable to arrange for alternate flights will be given refunds.
While hundreds of union workers protested outside, on April 21st the Israel Cabinet overwhelmingly approved the agreement, which allows more EU airlines to serve the Israeli market. The country’s airline workers immediately responded by going on strike citing their fear that the agreement will cost union jobs and possibly even drive the country’s airlines out of business.
The Israeli Finance Minister argues that “The Open Skies reform is good for Israel. It will lead to the lowering of prices and increase competition, and it will not harm work places in the market, rather the opposite.”
The powerful Histadrut labor union announced it would shut down the entire Ben-Gurion International Airport in solidarity with the Israeli airlines unions.
The Open Skies deal is scheduled to be implemented in April of 2014.
Israel’s Prime Minister praised the deal saying that the goal of the reform is to lower the prices of flights to and from Israel and to increase incoming tourism. Tourism is a critical Israeli industry which brings in more than 3.5 million tourists annually.
The head of Histadrut claims to favor Open Skies, but says that the deal needs to be amended to secure local jobs. Without such an amendment he warns that national airlines could collapse, taking thousands of jobs with them.
Experts fear that an expanded strike by unionized airport workers and security staff could bring entire airports to a halt.
El Al said that 8 for its 22 scheduled flights were cancelled the first day of the strike.
The Open Skies agreement reduces restriction on Europeans airlines that want to fly to Israel which will result in increased competition. The number of flights between Israel and Europe will grow, thereby allowing Israel to become a layover hub. Today it is regarded as a final stop.
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