Israel-Lufthansa rift widens
23 February 2004
TEL AVIV – A simmering dispute between Israel and Lufthansa has stepped up, with Israel’s Ministry of Transport threatening to halt flights of the German airline to the Jewish state unless security arrangements at Frankfurt Airport for flights to Tel Aviv are changed.
The Israeli Yediot Aharanot daily reported Monday that the ministry has said Lufthansa does not meet the security standards set by the International Aviation Authority.
A spokesman for Lufthansa Israel said it had asked Frankfurt Airport for an immediate review of the security arrangements; these were found to have no flaws.
According to the Israeli daily, the Transport Ministry denies the threat is linked to a recent appeal Lufthansa filed with Israel’s High Court against an Israel Aviation Authority (IAA) demand it lower seating capacity on its flights to Israel.
“The timing of the (security) complaint, after we submitted an appeal against the IAA, is strange,” Lufthansa Israel spokesman Yitzhak Zaroni said.
The dispute broke out last year when the IAA demanded Lufthansa cut seating capacity by 16 per cent starting February and 25 per cent by the end of March, a request the German airline said was unacceptable.
Lufthansa appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, which last week ordered the IAA to put its demand on hold and said the German airline could fly without the demanded restrictions until a panel of three judges decides on the issue.
Lufthansa says its 1971 aviation agreement with Israel does not deal with the number of passengers it may carry, only with the number of flights it may run between Germany and Tel Aviv.
The Israel Transport Ministry for its part says Lufthansa had been allowed a temporary increase in capacity, but was now asked to cut capacity to what it was one year ago in order to “preserve a balance” with Israeli airlines.
Lufthansa petitioned the court after German and Israeli aviation officials met in Israel earlier, but failed to resolve the dispute.
A German proposal to freeze Lufthansa seating capacity for two years, and only run flights between Tel Aviv and Frankfurt, leaving the other routes for El-Al Israel Airlines, was rejected, the Lufthansa spokesman said.
Lufthansa flies to and from Israel twice daily, once with an 247-seat Airbus 340 and once with a 368-seat Jumbo 747/400.
Lufthansa and El-Al are the only airlines operating scheduled flights between the two countries.
Subject: German news