A severe shortage of security personnel is forcing Israeli airlines to cancel several international flights, Haaretz news reports. Sun d’Or announced it was pulling three routes and Israir one for summer 2018. Such security impediments will make it difficult for Israeli airlines to keep up with increased air travel, particularly during the busy summer season.

Air travel in and out of Israel has surged since the 2013 Open Skies agreement with the EU. Israelis are reportedly flying abroad in record numbers and incoming tourism is increasing rapidly as well. But Israeli airlines cannot meet the demand due to the shortage of security personnel to provide the high level of security the government requires.

According to Israeli law, all flights by Israeli airlines leaving the country must be accompanied by a security agent. A severe shortage of such personnel led to some 500 flights from Israel being cancelled between April and October of 2017, Hamodia news reported at the time.

Now, after failing to get security approval, Sun d’Or, the charter subsidiary of El Al Airlines, stated it was pulling flights to Ibiza (Spain) and Corsica (France) slated for summer 2018. A third route is also being pulled, The Marker discovered, although its destination is not yet clear. Sun d’Or has been flying to Ibiza for the past three summers and announced a route to Corsica just three months ago.

In a letter to Moti Ilani, head of security for El Al, which is responsible for security of all Israeli airlines, Sun d’Or CEO Michael Strassburger said that they have been “waiting months” for approval to go ahead with the planned flights, which, according to him, “has created a problematic situation.”  

Strassburger also added that, “at this late stage we can’t sell the seats we have to travel agents and fliers. Under the circumstances we are being forced at this stage to pull back from our plan to operate flights to Ibiza and Corsica”.

Another airline, Israir, also announced it was pulling a twice-weekly flight planned between Haifa and Paphos (Cyprus) after failing to get the necessary personnel. The airline’s CEO Uri Sirkis described the situation of Israeli airlines as “simply crazy”.

“The Transportation Ministry opens the skies to foreign carriers, the Tourism Ministry and the Israel Hotels Association give incentives to foreign airlines to fly to Israel, but the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry close off Israeli airlines because of disagreements between them. If someone does not do something quickly, the damage will be devastating,” Sirkis told Haaretz news.

El Al’s financial standing has been harmed recently. An agreement between the government and the Histadrut labor federation to improve pay terms for Israelis working overseas collapsed after Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it did not have the necessary finance. The cuts threatened security budget and, as a result, Ilani informed Israeli airlines they would likely have to cancel flights for lack of security personnel, Haaretz reports.