Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai invited Quebecers to come experience his city’s sizzling nightlife, beaches and gourmet food, as he prepared to board the inaugural non-stop Air Canada flight between Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Ben-Gurion Airport on June 22.
“We have 14 kilometres of beach on the Mediterranean and 300 days of sun a year,” he said. “It is also an extremely vibrant city, thanks to 1,748 bars and pubs, amazing art, street culture and one of the best culinary scenes in the world.”
He is sure the new link will also encourage Israelis to come to Montreal, and enhance the already strong relationship between the two cities.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Air Canada vice presidents Craig Landry and David Shapiro, Aéroports de Montréal president Philippe Rainville, Israeli Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman and Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather were among the dignitaries present for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting and cake-cutting at the airport gate.
That first flight, aboard a 292-seat Airbus plane, was full, said Air Canada media relations manager Isabelle Arthur. The seasonal route operates twice weekly, Thursdays and Sundays, until Oct. 16. Air Canada has operated a Toronto-Tel Aviv flight for the past 22 years, which now offers daily departures all year-round.
Housefather, a frequent traveller to Israel, was ecstatic about this new option.
“It’s now easier and faster for Quebecer to get to the Holy Land,” he said. “They no longer have to spend an extra hour getting to Toronto, waiting two hours in the airport and then adding another hour onto their flight to Israel.”
Coderre extolled the new Montreal route as the result of his trade mission to Israel last November, and of his friendship with Huldai. The Tel Aviv mayor was in Montreal for the 12th World Congress of the Metropolis Association of major cities, of which Coderre is president. Huldai took part in a panel titled, “Living Together,” along with Coderre, as well as the mayors of Berlin, Chicago and other cities.
The new link will enhance business and institutional ties between Montreal and Tel Aviv, promote tourism and make family reunions easier, said Coderre. “It’s a win-win situation.”
The first flight was captained by Israeli-born pilot Arie Moshe, who has worked for Air Canada for 38 years. Based in Montreal, he is thrilled to no longer have to make the detour to Toronto to fly to Israel.
Although she was not working on the inaugural flight, another native Israeli, Aya Levy, who’s been an Air Canada flight attendant for 37 years, will be on board most of the flights. Also living in Montreal, she has happily transferred from the Toronto-Tel Aviv runs that she has been doing for 22 years.
Passenger Leo Hubermann had not planned on being aboard the first flight; it simply fit best with his need to get to Israel following a death in the family.
“It’s amazing, it makes a huge difference,” he said of not having to go through Toronto or a European city on other airlines that connect Canada and Israel. Those options are not only longer, but also more exhausting, Hubermann said. “I only hope there is enough traffic that they continue it beyond October.”
Air Canada announced the new route in February, a month after Montreal-based discount carrier Air Transat said it would be flying non-stop to Tel Aviv from Montreal for the first time this season.
Air Transat celebrated its inaugural flight, which left Montreal on June 18, at Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons’s residence in Tel Aviv.
Air Transat is operating a 332-seat Airbus plane between Trudeau and Ben-Gurion on Wednesdays and Sundays until Oct. 30.
Among the dignitaries present were Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin; Gilles Ringwald, Air Transat vice president, commercial; Yehuda Raveh, chair of the Israel-Canada Chamber of Commerce; and Gideon Thaler, president of TAL Aviation.
A reception was also held at Ben-Gurion Airport, where airline and Israeli officials welcomed the disembarking passengers. This included the traditional salute, in which fire trucks spray arches of water over the plane.
Air Transat, known best as a holiday carrier, is offering guided tours and packages in Israel.
The low-cost Icelandic airline WOW, which began flying out of Montreal last year, will start a Toronto-Montreal-Tel Aviv run in September, its first destination outside Europe and North America. Four flights a week are scheduled for one-way fares as low as $199.
There will be a stopover at Keflavik Airport, Iceland’s main airport, which is located about 50 km outside of Reykjavik, said WOW spokesperson Dana Frank, the length of which will vary.