United inaugurates Tel Aviv - Chicago flights
While El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. remains in hibernation, United Airlines, one of its major rivals on its Israel to North America routes has moved up a gear with the inauguration of its flights between Tel Aviv and Chicago. United, which announced the launch of the flights in July, last week began operating three weekly flights between Ben Gurion airport and Chicago's O'Hare airport, Trend reports with reference to Globes.
Despite the dearth of passengers due to Covid-19, United currently already operates 10 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Newark, New Jersey, and three weekly flights between Tel Aviv and San Francisco. Before the pandemic, United operated 40 weekly flights from Tel Aviv. The carrier is currently competing on the Tel Aviv - New York route only with Delta.
United Airlines Israel managing director Avi Friedman told "Globes," "Uni8ted Airlines operates its flights regardless of whether El Al is flying or not. As long as they don't stop us, we will continue to fly."
United is one of only three airlines (together with Ethiopian Airlines and Belavia) that continued flying to Israel throughout the pandemic, even during the lockdown in March and April, and even though non-Israeli passport holders have been barred from entering the country since March.
This was a commercial decision by the company," explains Friedman. United has been able to fill its flights with Israelis and US citizens given permission to enter Israel such as students including yeshiva students studying in Israel, essential medical and scientific staff, and US Jews with family in Israel. United has also increased the amount of cargo transported on its passenger flights.
Next month, United will relaunch Tel Aviv - Washington DC flights and increase the number of weekly Tel Aviv - Newark flights to 14.
Since the start of 2020, United has flown 200,000 passengers to and from Ben Gurion airport, down 70% from the corresponding period of 2019. But United has a market share of 15.5% of all the passengers using Ben Gurion airport this year compared with just 2.3% last year.