El Al's 16 hour 'accessible' flight to Eilat
The announcement by El Al of new flights designed to make Eilat more accessible to Britons has been given a cool reception by the travel industry.
The airline has inaugurated three flights a day, from Sunday to Thursday, between Ben-Gurion and Eilat, and one flight a day on Friday and Saturday. For passengers booking an El Al flight from London, the onward Eilat fare is just £7.
According to an El Al spokesman, the "best" option for those wishing to holiday in the Red Sea resort is to take their overnight flight, leaving Heathrow at 22.30 and arriving in Eilat at 9.50 the following morning - an overall journey time of more than nine hours, plus a three-hour check-in period.
The airline is not permitting passengers to check in bags for the whole journey to Eilat. They must collect luggage at Ben Gurion's Terminal 3 and transfer to Terminal 1 for the onward flight.
For the return journey, they can take an early afternoon flight from Eilat, connecting with El Al's early evening flight, and may check in their bags for the whole journey.
El Al's inauguration of the new domestic flights follows Isrotel's decision to drop its Isrotel Sun Express flights after one season.
The hotel chain launched direct flights between Luton and Eilat last year to allow Britons better access to the resort, which had not been regularly served by direct flights from the UK since March 2007.
"The new flights are cheap, but you can't check in at Heathrow for the whole journey, you have to take a night flight, and you have to switch terminals," said David Segel, managing director of West End Travel.
Longwood Holidays' Rafi Caplan also believes the move is barely an improvement: "For people determined to go to Eilat, it is a way to get there, but people who are not determined may look at non-stop flights to another destination and decide to go there, instead."
An El Al spokesman said a survey by the Ministry of Tourism in Eilat had found that many visitors to the area "did not want to spend a whole week in Eilat".