El Al plans to cancel flights
The Jerusalem Post

15 March 2003

Israel's national airline, El Al, plans to cancel some flights in March due to a 40 percent drop in passenger traffic, a company official said.

Financial troubles brought on partially by a drop in the number of tourists in 2002 have worsened in light of an impending US-led war with Iraq, Amos Shapiro, the chief executive officer for El Al, said in the Haaretz newspaper's Sunday edition.

There was no immediate comment from the airline on Sunday and it was unclear how many flights would be canceled or what routes could be affected. Travel agents said there had been no announcement of cancelations or route changes.

El Al, known for its stringent security measures, flew 20 percent fewer passengers in February this year than the same month last year, Shapiro said. Passenger traffic in March appeared to be 40 percent less, Shapiro said.

"This is real trouble ... I am very worried (about) 2003," he said, adding that if business doesn't improve the company will be forced to lay some people off.

Israel's tourism industry has been hard-hit by 29 months of fighting and a backlash from the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States. The tourism slump has meant fewer arrivals to Israel and fewer Israelis traveling abroad.

Israel's Airports Authority reported a 40 percent drop in the number of passengers traveling to Israel during the first week of March, said authority chairman Zvi Shalom.

El Al has been the target of several attacks in the last.

On July 4, an Egyptian immigrant shot and killed two people at the El Al counter in the Los Angeles airport.

The FBI has investigated the July 4 shooting as a possible terrorist act even though no evidence has linked the gunman to any terrorist group.