Latin America's largest airline holding company, LATAM Airlines, announced last week that it will begin operating direct flights between Israel and South America in 2018.
According to the Chile-based airline, three weekly flights will be operated from Santiago en route to Israel, with a stop-over in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Ministry of Tourism confirmed that talks are being held with the airline on the new commercial flights.
No direct flights currently exists between Israel and South American countries after Israel’s EL AL Airlines terminated its flights to Brazil, forcing passengers to stopover in European destinations.
LATAM was founded in 2012 as an umbrella airline incorporating LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines belonging to Chile and Brazil respectively. Since being founded, the group has set up subsidiaries in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and Argentina.
The range of the airline’s aircraft includes a Boeing 787 and 767, and Airbus A350 and short and medium-range airbuses.
Direct London-Eilat flights on the horizon?
With developments on the South American front, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism has also turned its attention to British Airways to discuss the possibility of launching direct flights in the winter between London and the holiday resort of Eilat.
The direct flight routes were supposed to be reserved for Monarch Airlines, but the plans were brought to an abrupt halt recently after the airline announced bankruptcy, leaving the routes literally up in the air.
According to the company’s chief executive and chairman Alex Cruz, British Airways is not ruling out the possibility of filling the gap left behind by Monarch but direct London-Eilat flights would not be happening any time in the near future.
“We have no announcement on the issue of Monarch stopping its flights to Eilat and at the moment we don’t have a plane that is appropriate at this stage for the flight configuration to Eilat,” Cruz said.
Cruz flew to Israel to mark 85 years of since the airline—then known as Imperial Airways—first began operating flights from London to what eventually became Israel. Embarking on its first journey in 1932 to the territory then controlled by the British, the airline is the oldest to operate in Israel.
Today, British Airways operates 14 flights between Tel Aviv and London and was ranked 14th best airline, including among Israeli companies, out of all competitors operating in Ben Gurion Airport.