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Airlines go to battle for Montreal-Tel Aviv travellers

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, right, participates in Air Canada’s celebration of its new Montreal-Tel Aviv route with president and CEO Calin Rovinescu, left. Back row is Jerry Adler, Philippe Rainville, president of Aéroports de Montréal and Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman. JANICE ARNOLD PHOTO

The head of Air Canada is confident that the direct Montreal to Tel Aviv route it is launching next month will prove to be a good decision for the company.

Air Canada’s president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu, said there has long been a demand for such a travel option, not only from those visiting family and friends, but also from tourists and business travellers, particularly those in the technology sector, in which Montreal excels.

The direct link will enhance the economic opportunities that exist between Israel and Canada, he believes.

With Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard by his side, Rovinescu presided over a festive official launch of the new route held at Entrepôts Dominion on May 3.

Air Canada announced on Feb. 13 that it would operate two weekly non-stop flights between Trudeau and Ben-Gurion airports between June 22 and Oct. 16, using a 292-seat Airbus aircraft. Twenty-seven of those seats will be business class and 21 will be designated “privileged economy class.”


Connections from throughout Canada and the United States are possible.

The country’s largest airline stepped up to match Air Transat after it announced a month earlier that it would start running non-stop flights from Montreal to Tel Aviv. Air Transat will fly the route twice weekly from June 18 to the end of October, aboard a 332-seat plane.

This is the first destination in the Middle East for Air Transat, a leisure airline known for its holiday packages. It is aggressively promoting the new route, offering a $999 fare, all taxes and fees included. Meanwhile, Air Canada is posting a range of prices, starting at about $1,200.

It’s a gamble for both airlines, which are facing higher costs and fierce competition.

Air Transat has posted a string of losses, with shares in the Montreal-based company losing about a third of their value over the past year.

In May, Air Canada posted a $37-million loss in the first quarter.

The Israel tourism ministry’s representative in Canada praised the new Montreal-Tel Aviv link.

“Israel, which is the size of Lake Ontario, has something to offer everyone,” said Jerry Adler, who is based in Toronto. “You don’t have to be religious. There’s food, ecotourism, hiking and biking.”

Israeli Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman said a week earlier at Air Transat’s ceremonial kickoff that the positive effect is already being felt: “Since Air Transat’s announcement (on Jan. 9), we have seen a dramatic increase for Israel as a tourist destination and eagerly welcome this wonderful opportunity to welcome thousands of passengers from Canada to our country.”

Additionally, he said it provides Israelis with an attractive way to visit Montreal and the rest of Canada.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin is in Montreal this week to launch his government’s advertising campaign, to entice Quebecers to visit Israel.

Couillard, who will lead an economic mission of about 90 participants to Israel and the West Bank from May 19-24 – flying aboard an Air Canada jet from Toronto – noted that this will be his third trip to Israel. The first was a personal visit and the second was when he was minister of health.

At its launch on April 26, Air Transat president and CEO Jean-Marc Eustache emphasized that tourism will continue to be a strong contributor to Canada’s economy.  The airline is offering four different guided tours of Israel: two in French only, one in French and English, and one in English only.

Air Canada Vacations is also developing its own tourism packages from Montreal.