Months after deal, Israeli airlines still not flying to Turkey

Three months after the Civil Aviation Authority announced that Israeli airlines would be able to fly to Turkey again — after nearly half a decade during which they were not allowed to take off or land in that country — local carriers are still effectively locked out of the lucrative market.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines continues to grow, consolidating its position as the second-largest airline operating in Israel.

“This is the great illusion, which the head of the Civil Aviation Authority was able to create: to my regret, there is absolutely no change,” El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedy fumed this week in an interview with The Times of Israel. “We asked to be able to fly to Turkey starting at the beginning of March, to Istanbul and other places across Turkey… We can’t fly to Turkey and the Turks continue to operate tens of flights per week.

“On the ground, what is happening is this: all Israeli companies cannot operate one single flight to Turkey, or from Turkey.”
On paper, the situation has nothing to do with the tense diplomatic atmosphere between Jerusalem and Ankara, but rather on Israel’s tight security requirements.

Until 2007, Israeli companies operated about 30 weekly flights to and from Turkey.

But starting that year, Turkish authorities stopped accommodating Israel’s security requirements, preventing Israeli companies from landing in Turkey. Israel’s security agencies have stricter security requirements than other countries.

Officials in Jerusalem refuse to specify Israel’s security demands on record, but in private conversations say accommodations could certainly have been found if there was a desire to do so, and squarely blame Turkish authorities for deliberately making the Israeli companies’ lives more difficult.