On Aug. 2, United Airlines announced it will begin its 20th year of service to Israel with a new nonstop flight between its hub at Washington Dulles International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, subject to government approval. The new flight, starting May 22, 2019, will be the first to be operated by a U.S. carrier between the two cities.
On a local level, this announcement signified a huge victory for the Israeli American Council (IAC) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC). Together with the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC), Virginia Israel Advisory Board (VIAB), and the Maryland Sister State Committee, they worked on this initiative for 18 months.
“For many years, these organizations had been advocating independently for nonstop flights between the Washington-Baltimore region and Israel,” said Barry Bogage, executive director of MIDC. “More recently, we all joined forces to work together to show the airlines that a market opportunity exists with broad Jewish and business community support for nonstop service to Israel.”
In 2017, the organizations administered an online survey to gather data from the community on the level of demand for direct flights to Israel from the Greater Washington area. The survey was developed in cooperation with El Al Israel Airline, United Airlines, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
“The vast majority of responses indicate that most people (76 percent) would prefer to use this route and would switch over from what they are using currently,” said Amir Neeman, Founder and Principal of Amir Neeman Consulting, LLC, via email. “Most people fly with United and fly Economy class (49 percent). Most people are willing to pay a premium of up to 5 percent to fly non-stop.”
Offering more nonstop service between the United States and Tel Aviv than any other U.S. airline, United’s new route to Tel Aviv will be the carrier’s fourth flight to Israel. United currently operates twice-daily service between New York/Newark and Tel Aviv and daily nonstop service between San Francisco and Tel Aviv.
“We are thrilled to welcome another United Airlines flight to Israel from the United States,” said Yariv Levin, Israel’s Minister of Tourism. “Today’s announcement is a wonderful way to celebrate United’s 20-year history in Israel and opens many more opportunities for both countries to continue to build strong relationships while growing business and expanding tourism.”
United Airlines has continuously served Israel since August 1999, when the airline began daily service between its New York/Newark hub and Tel Aviv, and in 2004 it increased to two flights daily. In response to a growing demand for business and tourism travel, United became the first U.S. airline to operate nonstop service between the U.S. West Coast and Tel Aviv from its hub in San Francisco in March 2016, operating three flights weekly with Boeing 787-9 aircraft. In October 2016, United increased its service to daily and earlier this year began operating its newest aircraft, the Boeing 777-300ER, from San Francisco (seasonally) and New York/Newark (year round).
“United was highly interested in this since IAD is one of their major hubs, and due to the success they’ve seen with a highly profitable nonstop route between San Francisco and Tel Aviv (a route that was launched in 2015),” said Neeman.
United’s new flight will also offer customers convenient, nonstop access between Israel and high-tech business centers in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Virginia. This year, Virginia’s Fairfax County Economic Development Authority announced nearly 1,000 new jobs to the area, many with direct ties to businesses based in Israel.
“There are already about 60 Israeli companies that maintain offices in the region, as well as companies like Lockheed Martin, Stanley, Black and Decker, and others that do a lot of business with Israel and send staff back and forth,” explained Bogage. “The nonstop service will help attract even more Israeli companies to the area and will make it easier for local businesses to trade with Israel, which will lead to more economic activity and job creation.”
Securing these new nonstop flights to Israel is a significant achievement for local advocacy organizations, “a clear example of how a unified strong community, working together toward a common goal can achieve amazing results,” said Neeman. “IAC and JCRC led the way, but it was followed and supported by thousands in our community and it helped make the case to United that we are a cohesive community that will support this initiative and make it a successful reality. We worked jointly and all of our community members will now benefit from it.”
“It shows that when working together, the sky (literally) is the limit.”
By Kol HaBirah Staff