El Al recently notified the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs that itwill halt its flights to South Africa by the end of January
A new crisis is threatening El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. direct flights to South Africa - the country is refusing to give the airline's security officials immunity. It is understood that El Al recently notified the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs that itwill halt its flights to South Africa by the end of January if its security staff is not provided with diplomatic passports by then.
El Al currently flies three direct flights per week to Johannesburg. El Al is the only airline that runs direct flights between Israel and South Africa.
The current crisis arose this summer when a disgruntled former El Al security guard, Jonathan Garb, approached “Carte Blanche”, a South African investigative TV program. He accused El Al of racial profiling and other procedures he deemed improper. A public outcry ensued and South Africa expelled an Israeli security officer in November. Pretoria has since refused to grant diplomatic passports to El Al staff.
Ending the route is liable to damage tourism between the countries. In 2009, more than 22,000 South African tourists visited Israel.
The cessation of flights would be bad news for pilgrim tourism but also for the thousands of Israelis who plan on traveling to watch the World Cup 2010 finals which will be played in June in South Africa.
Late last week hopes were high that President Shimon Peres will meet with his South African counterpart President Jacob Zuma at the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss the future of the only direct flight between Israel and South Africa.