Sources inform ''Globes'' that Continental Airlines, which is in the process of merging with United Airlines, is in the final stages of a feasibility study of a Tel Aviv-San Francisco route, which could be launched by the end of the year.
The airline has a very occupancy rate of 95% in recent months on its two daily flights between Tel Aviv and its hub in Newark, above the industry average. It is the leading foreign airline in terms of passengers at Ben Gurion Airport, and second busiest after El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL), even though other foreign airlines make more flights than Continental to and from Ben Gurion Airport.
In the past, Continental had considered a third daily flight, between Tel Aviv and Houston, where passengers could connect to follow-on flights to the southern US and to select destinations in Central and South America.
The Continental merger with United, to become the world's largest airline, opens the possibility of more flights between Tel Aviv and new hubs (those of United) in the US, including San Francisco. There are currently no direct flights between San Francisco and Tel Aviv.
San Francisco is a popular destination for Israeli businesspeople, because of its proximity to Silicon Valley. It is also a popular holiday destination, and it is also an important hub for follow-on flights across the western US, ranging from the high-tech center in Seattle to the gambling center of Las Vegas.
Continental has not yet decided on details about the route, or when it might be launched. It will also have to decide what plane to use; the airline currently uses Boeing 777s on its Tel Aviv-Newark route.
Continental is also due to reconfigure the interior of its planes, which currently have two classes (economy and business-first class), as part of the merger with United. Continental Airlines Israel general manager Avi Friedman confirmed that, following the merger, beginning in 2012 the airline's plans will also include an economy-plus class on its Israel route.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 21, 2011
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011