The European Union and Israel signed an Open Skies agreement last June, paving the way for increased mobility between the Middle East and Europe. The accord allows for a gradual opening until 2018, at which point air traffic between the two will no longer be restricted.
EasyJet is the first European discount carrier to open routes between its European hubs and Tel Aviv in response to the agreement, with eight airports offering direct flights from spring 2014: Basel, Berlin, Geneva, London, Manchester, Milan and Rome. Fares to and from Berlin are available from around €75 euros one way.
Not to be outdone, Israel’s state carrier El Al has announced the launch of its own discount competitor, UP Airlines, which started service between its Tel Aviv hub and (mainly Central) European capitals Berlin, Kiev, Prague, Budapest and Larnaca on March 30, 2014. Fares to and from Berlin can be found for as low as €72 one way, but average around €120 per leg.
Pegasus Airlines (Greece) and Turkish Airlines offer inexpensive direct flights to Greece or Turkey, with one-stop connections to northern Europe at prices similar to the higher end of El Al’s fares. Booked in advance, you may even score an airberlin ticket to and from Berlin or Lufthansa ticket to and from Frankfurt for as little as €125 each leg.
You can expect prices to drop further as competition between airlines heats up between Europe and Israel in the next five years! We’ll keep you posted as more discount carriers enter the fray.