Despite on-going political unrest in the south of the country, El-Al says it is to increase capacity for this winter with a further 1,000 seats per week, using a Boeing 747-400 on five out of 12 rotations from London Heathrow.

Citing healthy load factor on its existing mixture of 767 and 777 services from Heathrow, El Al sales and marketing manager, Tim Gallagher, told ABTN he was confident the carrier would be able to compete with new entrant Thomsonfly.

”We had already taken this [capacity] step before Thomsonfly entered the market and some of our clientele will be rudely surprised by what extra they have to pay for, such as checking in bags for example,” he said.

”Thomsonfly will have an impact on the market, no doubt, but we welcome its support to put Israel, including Tel Aviv city breaks, beach holidays to Eilat and the Red Sea, back on the travel and tourism map.”

Gallagher acknowledged the current political situation in Israel, but remained confident El Al could ride out any storm. ”Current indications are that traffic is not affected by what is happening in Israel,” he said.

”We have to remember the traffic nature and we are running into the summer when people are visiting friends and relatives ” that doesn”t go away. There is a loyalty to us, but we don”t take it for granted.”

Thomsonfly says it will start thrice-weekly services to Tel Aviv from Luton and Manchester from 1 November, using Boeing 737-800 or 757-200 aircraft.

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