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No more stopovers in Istanbul?

Many Israelis cancelling reservations for cheap Turkish Airlines flights following detention of Israeli passengers in Turkish airport

Will Israelis be forced to say goodbye to cheap flights through Turkey? Sources in the travel industry say that the detention and humiliation of Israeli passengers at the Istanbul airport on Monday signals a new, pessimistic era – especially for those seeking low-cost flights to a variety of destinations across the world.

 

Some travel agencies are already experiencing a halt in reservations for the High Holiday season.

 

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The incident, which was first reported by Ynet, took place after the passengers arrived on a Turkish Airlines flight. For many years, this company has been offering Israelis flights to a large number of destinations across the world, requiring a stopover in Istanbul, and serving as a cheap solution for reaching Europe, the United States and the Far East.

 

Ronen Carasso, VP marketing for Issta Lines, told Ynet that until now, despite the high tensions with Turkey since the flotilla raid and "boycott" many Israeli declared on the Turkish clubs, these flights were a sort of "island of stability" and remained quite popular among Israelis.

 

'The last stable element'

"Even throughout the recent period, it continued in an extraordinary manner and was the last stable elements in flights to Turkey," said Carasso. "Since this morning, we have been receiving calls from dozens of people asking to cancel their Turkish Airlines reservations following the incident."

 

Turkish travel agents operating in Israel told Ynet they had also received messages from angry passengers asking to cancel their flights to Turkey.

 

"The atmosphere is unpleasant," a Turkish representative working in Tel Aviv admitted. "We haven't received any instructions from Turkey. We're just waiting for the anger to calm down."

 


"טורקיש" מציעה טיסות זולות דרך טורקיה. שדה"ת באיסטנבול (צילום: זיו ריינשטיין)

Istanbul airport (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)

 

Carasso noted, however, that in spite of the appeal of flights making a stopover in Turkey – there are other options. "There are even cheaper flights, through Uzbekistan, or with Russian airlines," he said.

 

He concluded that he did not view Monday's incident as a traffic problem, but mainly as further deterioration in Israel's relations with Turkey.

 

"It's sad that this is what is happening," Eyal Kashdan, CEO of the Flying Carpet travel agency, told Ynet. "After all, Turkey is a country with clubs and 'all-inclusive' packages for families, offered at an attractive price.

 

"It's sad that because of politics we Israelis can't enjoy it, and there's no doubt that we're going to see a dramatic drop in reservations. We're experiencing a halt in reservations for the holidays after a certain recovery in the flights to Turkey in recent months."

 

Honeymoon in danger

The situation is particularly grim for passengers who have already reserved low-cost tickets on Turkish Airlines flights. Ilia, who lives in central Israel, told Ynet that his honeymoon in Thailand, planned for next month, was in danger of being canceled.

 

"I checked with the travel agent and with the airline, and was told that I cannot cancel my tickets, unless they adopt an overall policy on the issue and provide a solution," he said, adding that he was told he would not receive a refund for the $2,500 he had already paid for the two tickets.

 

In the current situation, Ilia noted, he will reconsider going on the honeymoon. "It depends on the security situation right before the trip," he said.

 

He told Ynet that he chose the Turkish Airlines flight because he received the best offer – an El Al flight to Thailand on the same date cost $350 more for each ticket.

 

Some travel agencies, it turns out, did not wait for the current escalation and have already removed Turkey from their maps.

 

"I decided not to offer any more deal to Turkey about a month ago, following the radicalization of (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan's speeches," Yaron Ohana, CEO of the Penguin company, told Ynet. "It's my ideological line, despite the great losses, but we did it out of faith."

 

Ohana vowed to pursue his firm stand and not to offer flights to Turkey "until the relations return to a certain state of normalization. We have to have some Israeli pride and say, 'Enough – we don't want any cooperation with you."

 

He called on other companies to "cease the hypocrisy".

 

Ziv Reinstein and Yoav Glasner contributed to this report

 

 


פרסום ראשון: 09.06.11, 11:56
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