CEO Alex Cruz vis­its Tel Aviv, meets with Is­raeli start-ups

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By MAX SCHINDLER

In 1932, six­teen pas­sen­gers flew in a four-en­gine bi­plane on the first Im­pe­rial Air­ways flight to Manda­tory Pales­tine, land­ing on the Sea of Galilee and tak­ing fer­ries to shore. That flight took some 20 hours – to­day, it only takes five.

“The State of Is­rael has been one of [the] most im­por­tant des­ti­na­tions in Bri­tish Air­ways’ his­tory,” CEO Alex Cruz said on Thurs­day at Tel Aviv’s beach-side Carl­ton Ho­tel.

As Bri­tish Air­ways cel­e­brates 85 years of ser­vice, its par­ent com­pany, In­ter­na­tional Air­lines Group, is bid­ding for bank­rupt low-cost Monarch Air­way’s run­way slots at Gatwick Air­port. If the com­pany ac­quires those slots, giv­ing it more ca­pac­ity, then one of its sub­sidiaries – Aer Lin­gus, Ibe­ria or Vuel­ing – could con­sider adding a Lon­don-Ei­lat route.

Monarch, which went bank­rupt last month, had pre­vi­ously run a Lon­don-Ei­lat route from Lu­ton air­port dur­ing the win­ter months. The com­pany lost a high-court bat­tle in the UK on Wed­nes­day, in a bid to trade its run­way slots to other car­ri­ers in ex­change for pay­ing back cred­i­tors, com­pli­cat­ing the plan for Bri­tish Air­ways to set up a di­rect Ei­lat flight.

A few weeks ago, Cruz met with a del­e­ga­tion of Is­raeli start-ups in his of­fice, to dis­cuss ac­quir­ing hi-tech prod­ucts and tech­nolo­gies for the Bri­tish flag car­rier.

“From cy­ber­se­cu­rity to top­ics that are bet­ter known, like search and on­line mar­ket­ing, some Is­raeli com­pa­nies are do­ing it in a very spe­cial way,” Cruz said, adding that he was also look­ing at Is­raeli start-ups which spe­cial­ize in video and other dig­i­tal ser­vices. “We are sure we will do more and more busi­ness to­gether [with Is­rael].”

Cruz also met with Tourism Min­is­ter Yariv Levin (Likud) ear­lier in the day, to dis­cuss greater con­nec­tiv­ity with Is­rael and how Bri­tish Air­lines could pro­vide more op­tions for Is­raeli cus­tomers. “All th­ese ef­forts to pro­mote Is­rael are hav­ing an ef­fect,” he added.

Bri­tish Air­ways op­er­ates 14 weekly flights on the Tel Aviv-Lon­don route, bring­ing some 150,000 pas­sen­gers to Tel Aviv an­nu­ally.

Un­like most of its Euro­pean com­peti­tors, Bri­tish Air­ways and its sis­ter air­line, Ibe­ria, clas­si­fies the Ben-Gu­rion route as “long haul,” mean­ing that pas­sen­gers get com­pli­men­tary meals and ac­cess to an in-seat en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem.

This week, the com­pany also an­nounced that it is in­vest­ing £4.5 bil­lion to re­fur­bish cab­ins on its 128 planes, up­grade the fleet, equip all seats with a power sta­tion and Wi-Fi, and ac­quire sev­eral new wide-bod­ied air­craft – both Air­bus A35s and Boe­ing 787-10 Dream­lin­ers.

Bri­tish Air­ways, pri­va­tized in 1987, ser­vices some 200 des­ti­na­tions world­wide. Its par­ent com­pany, In­ter­na­tional Air­lines Group, has a mar­ket value of £12.38b.

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