Monday, November 2, 2009

Netanyahu to fly cheaper plane - Arkia to U.S. instead of El Al to save taxpayers money

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will leave next Sunday for a working visit to the United States, during the course of which he is expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. What sets this trip apart, however, is the six extra hours Netanyahu agreed to spend en route by opting for a cheaper and smaller airplane, which necessitates a refueling stop.

The prime minister's visit to the tripartite summit at the UN General Assembly in New York in September cost $1.3 million. For this price, the prime minister flew on an El Al Boeing 767, directly to the United States. The prime minister's office rejected cheaper proposals from other companies that had offered smaller planes.

At the time, the prime minister's office explained El Al's exorbitant fee by saying that the company had insisted on raising the price because it had to take a large passenger jet out of commuter use for several days during the holiday season, in addition to a short-notice surcharge. However, El Al's offer for the current trip was even higher, standing at $1.4 million.

Netanyahu decided to issue a tender for other companies operating smaller airliners. After receiving offers of $800,000 from Israir and $450,000 from Arkia, Netanyahu chose the cheapest option, prolonging his journey by some six hours.

Netanyahu and his entourage will leave Israel early next Sunday morning, stop to refuel in Ireland, and go on to Washington. On Monday, Netanyahu is expected to meet with Obama. Netanyahu will leave for New York that night, and will spend Tuesday giving interviews and meeting with Jewish leaders. Netanyahu will then make his way home on Tuesday, stopping to refuel in Paris.