El Al Sees 60,000 Passengers/Year On Brazil Flight

March 23, 2009

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El Al Israel Airlines expects 60,000 passengers a year to fly on its new direct flight to Sao Paulo, the company's chief executive, Haim Romano, said on Monday.

Israel's leading airline and flag carrier will launch direct flights to Brazil on May 2, its first new destination in 10 years. It will operate three nonstop flights a week to Brazil using Boeing 777 aircraft for the 14 hour and 45 minute flight.

"We are prepared to add flights if needed," Romano told a news conference. "The potential is great. I believe the numbers will grow."

Brazilian Ambassador Pedro Mota Pinto Coelho said more than 200,000 passengers fly between Israel and Brazil annually, using connections.

He sees a growing market for business travellers as trade between the two countries increases to an estimated USD$2 billion in 2009 from USD$1.6 billion last year.

He noted that Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) signed a free trade agreement with Israel at the end of 2007, the first country outside the region to do so.

El Al has signed cooperation agreements with Brazil's TAM and Aerolineas Argentinas and Romano said he expects these to be upgraded to code-sharing agreements soon.

(Reuters)