Ryanair, Europe's largest low-cost carrier, is to launch a daily Tel Aviv-Rome route from October 29 with fares starting from €17 in each direction. This will bring to 22 the number of routes Ryanair operates from Israel - 8 from Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and 14 from Ovda near Eilat.
Ryanair chief commercial officer David O'Brien told "Globes," "It took us a long to reach Israel but from the moment we arrived, we have been working fast. I don't usually hand out compliments to politicians but in this case Israel is different. Your politicians have done a great job in everything regarding tourism and aviation. The Minister of Transport has opened up the skies and the Minister of Tourism has pushed Israel as a tourist destination with an emphasis on operations to Ovda airport to strengthen tourism to that region.
Ryanair operates flights to destinations such as Krakow, Gdansk, Poznan and Baden- Baden for which it receives a grant from the Ministry of Tourism (for operating flights to new destinations).
The flights to Rome will receive no grants yet you are beginning with daily flights.
"That's right because at the moment there are only high-cost companies on that route and not low-cost companies."
But EasyJet, which is a low-cost company operates Tel Aviv - Milan flights
"The fares on EasyJet are twice the cost of ours so from my point of view it's a high-cost company. The average price of an easyJet ticket (on all routes) last year was €91. In 2016 our average price was €46 and we will end this year with an average price of €40. That's half the price of EasyJet. We are cheap, period."
The starting fare for flights from Ben Gurion airport will be about €17 – a bargain basement price by any standards. It should be taken into account that this is only one way and does not include baggage and such a cheap price is limited to certain dates.
Other carriers operating the Tel Aviv-Rome route include El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL), Alitalia, Vueling (a Spanish low-cost carrier), Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd., and easyJet.
Are the passengers flying on Ryanair's routes to Israel mainly Israelis or overseas tourists?
"On the flights to Eilat most of the passengers are tourists coming to Israel with only a small proportion of Israelis. I haven't got precise numbers but I would assume that in time Israelis will learn that it pays for them to come to Ovda and then fly to destinations in Europe cheaply. On routes from Ben Gurion it's not the opposite but about half and half Israelis and tourists. El Al maybe flies more Israelis than tourists and European airlines perhaps fly more Europeans. We operate from 200 airports in 86 countries and that allows us to balance between passengers from all types of countries."
Would you consider opening a base in Israel?
"We are considering it. Our relations with the Israeli authorities are excellent and it is needed."
Would you consider opening an office in Israel, in other words a local representation?
"An office is just a place where people sit and chat and we have one in Dublin. A base in an airport from our point of view will be more effective in strengthening activities in Israel's competitive market."
Have operations in Israel met your expectations in passenger volume?
"Our average occupancy on all flights in 90% and that's what distinguishes us from other companies. We aren't used to seeing empty planes, so in fact we are not surprised to see our planes full, because the prices that we sell at are what they should be and not any more. On the new Tel Aviv – Rome route we are offering particularly low fares, and that's how it will stay."
Ryanair already operates four flights each week between Tel Aviv and Milan.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 27, 2017
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