Ryanair's Israel flights could benefit from Egypt and Turkey tensions
Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30
Ryanair could benefit from an expected increase in the number of Russian and Eastern European tourists travelling to sun holidays in Israel as a result of geo-political instability.
Turkey and Egypt are effectively off-limits for Russian tourists especially after the downing of a Russian commercial jet in Egypt, and tensions after a Russian military jet was shot down by Turkish forces last month.
About 3.3 million Russians visited Turkey last year, and 2.6 million Russians visited Egypt. Over 500,000 visited Israel.
Ryanair began flying to Eilat, in southern Israel, last month from Lithuania, Poland and Hungary. Carriers that fly to the airport in Eilat - Ovda - are currently being offered a €45 rebate for every single passenger they bring into the Israeli facility. The country's Tourism Ministry is footing the bill for the incentive.
Ovda is located about 300km from Jerusalem and 60km or so from Eilat.
Ryanair had previously offered to fly to Ovda airport, but was refused concessions it sought from Israeli authorities in return for launching direct routes to the facility from Europe.
Eilat, which is on the Red Sea coast, has been actively courting airlines to launch services to the destination, and believes the arrival of Ryanair significantly raised its profile and ability to lure other carriers. Eilat has been billing itself as an alternative destination to Egypt and Turkey for sun and activity holidays.
Ryanair offers return tickets from Kaunas in Lithuania to Eilat, for flights in January, for about €90.
The airline had been eyeing up services to Israel for years, but was hamstrung by government rules there.
Israel finally signed an open skies agreement with Europe in 2013 that enabled Ryanair to target the country.
That agreement was then extended, allowing for an increase in the number of scheduled flights between Israel and the European Union.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has previously said that the airline wanted to establish a significant presence in Israel, and envisaged operating flights to the country from a number of countries in Europe, including Germany, the UK and Russia.
Mr O'Leary had previously blamed the slow pace of opening up Israeli airspace to foreign airlines on the desire by the government there to protect state-owned carrier El-Al.
But El-Al has been boosted by falling oil prices and improved demand as military activity in the region abated.
El-Al recently reported its third-quarter results, with its profit for the period having risen over nine-fold to $93m.