Flights of El Al from BWI continue U.S., Israel OK deal allowing Tower Air to fly to Tel Aviv; Airlines

THE BALTIMORE SUN

El Al Israel Airlines will continue flying to Tel Aviv from BWI, after a deal was struck yesterday between the United States and Israel.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reauthorized El Al service from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, as well as airports in Orlando, Fla., and Dallas-Fort Worth, after its Israeli counterpart granted permission for New York-based Tower Air to begin flights to Tel Aviv this summer.

"We're very pleased, obviously," said Karen Black, a BWI spokeswoman. "And we're assuming that the latest developments mean passengers will not be inconvenienced."

Although the state-run El Al has just eight flights departing from BWI each month, the U.S. decision last week to rescind permission for its flights generated consternation among Maryland transportation officials and the state's congressional delegation, who called the flights "an important part of our state's efforts to promote international trade and tourism."

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, in a letter to Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, expressed "deep concerns" over the decision to halt El Al's service, which stemmed from an Israeli decision prohibiting Tower Air's competing flights to Tel Aviv.

But in a meeting held in Jerusalem yesterday between Israeli transportation officials and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, the two sides settled their differences.

"The Minister of Transport Yitzhak Levy has decided to answer positively the request of the American company Tower Air and permit it to fly the Tel Aviv-Athens-New York route," said Avner Ovadiah, an Israeli Transport Ministry spokesman.

El Al's twice-weekly flights to Tel Aviv from BWI, via North American Airlines service to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, carried a total of about 600 passengers in April, Black said. The next scheduled El Al flight will depart from BWI on Monday.

While down from a peak of more than 1,000 passengers a month last summer, the April average was three times higher than that of March, when Middle East violence stymied tourist travel.

El Al, one of six international carriers that flies from BWI, has operated from the Linthicum airport since 1992. Flights to Israel from Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando have not yet begun.

Pub Date: 6/10/97

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