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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Tourism Ministry and Scandinavian carrier SAS announced last Thursday that SAS would resume flights to Israel later this year with direct service from Stockholm to Eilat for the winter season of 2017-2018. The airline discontinued flights to Israel in March 2016 citing “increasing costs and competition,” despite a steep increase in passenger traffic in 2015.

“I welcome SAS’s decision,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. “We are indeed witnessing exceptional momentum, with airlines flying into Israel and bringing record numbers of tourists.

“We warmly welcome Swedish tourists, who will once again vacation in Eilat thanks to the new route, and will enjoy an attractive holiday destination, especially in the winter,” Levin continued.

“Eilat is located on the Red Sea, on Israel’s southern coast and offers everything from white, sandy beaches to spectacular hotels and nightlife,” said SAS-Sweden Sales Manager Anders Wahlström. “This is a city that has attracted visitors for decades. We see that more and more people want to travel with us to warmer destinations in the winter.”

The announcement followed several rounds of negotiations between the airline and the Tourism Ministry. SAS accepted an offer by the Tourism Ministry to receive a subsidy of € 45 per passenger and an additional € 15 per passenger from the Eilat Hotels Association.

SAS is the latest international airline to announce service to Israel in recent months. Since the beginning of 2017, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, Air India and a host of low-cost European airlines announced they would begin flying to Israel. In addition, China’s Hainan Airlines announced it would expand service on its Beijing-Tel Aviv route.

Incoming tourism increased 24 percent in the first quarter of 2017 in comparison with the same period in 2016. The Tourism Ministry has been promoting the expansion of direct flights from Europe to Israel, and particularly to Eilat during the winter season, marketing it as a warm destination.

The announcement by  SAS comes against the backdrop of ongoing tensions between Stockholm and Jerusalem following comments by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in 2015 linking terror attacks in Paris to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and over Sweden’s 2014 recognition of a Palestinian “state.”

More recently, Wallstrom was named “special envoy” to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a move that elicited scathing criticism from the Israeli foreign ministry.  

By: Ilana Messika