Israel signs Open Skies deal with EU

The Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Civil Aviation Authority Director Giora Rom on Monday signed an Open Skies agreement with the European Union.

The agreement, signed at a festive ceremony in Luxembourg between the Israeli representatives and EU transportation ministers, will gradually, over the next five years, remove all barriers for flights between Israel and Europe, in the hopes of lowering air fares and significantly increasing tourism to Israel.

When the Israeli Cabinet approved the deal in April, all three of Israel's airlines — El Al, Arkia and Israir — went on a protest strike. The strikers feared that the increased competition would put Israeli airline employees out of work and possibly even lead to the closure of airlines.

The strike ended after two days when the Finance Ministry agreed to cover a large chunk of the security costs that would have otherwise rendered the Israeli carriers unable to compete with the prices offered by European airlines.

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