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Emerging national carriers should follow its lead: El Al, among other things, has made its name synonymous with Israel and, in return, has its paired its future entirely with that of the state.

“Which airline, foreign or domestic” would you prefer to fly, assuming that all foreign airlines were to fly from Israel to all destinations, without restrictions?” was the question posed to respondents, who were asked to choose one airline from 27 options. The question was asked on behalf of “Globes” by Blueberries Panel Ltd., a mobile polling company, to 732 respondents.

By far the largest proportion of respondents — 48 percent — said that they prefer to fly El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL). The colors of the flag, the sense of security, direct flights to various destinations, and El Al’s image as Israel’s national carrier, all explain the Israelis’ preference for it.

According to the Israel Airports Authority, El Al carried four million passengers to and from Israel in 2011. Arkia Airlines Ltd. carried 560,000 passengers and Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd. carried 252,000 passengers.

Lufthansa was in second place out of the 27 airlines in the survey, followed by Singapore Airlines, and British Airways with a small gap. British Airways carried 253,000 passengers to and from Israel in 2011. Swiss International Airlines AG, part of Lufthansa AG, was in fifth place. Swiss, which carried 267,000 passengers to and from Israel in 2011, recently announced that it will increase its seat capacity on its Israel routes by 6 percent during the winter season. Arkia was in sixth place and Israir is in tenth place.

The well-publicized dispute between El Al’s management and its pilots, which has ended up in court, does not deter Israelis. Notwithstanding the airline’s financial woes (it lost $50 million in 2011), Israelis see it as the preferred and undisputed national carrier. It is seen as incomparably better than Arkia and Israir on almost every variable surveyed: 72 percent of respondents said that it is the best Israeli carrier; 65 percent said that it has the most varied flight schedule; 51 percent said that it has the best security check; 28 percent said that it has the lowest lost luggage rate; 56 percent said that it has the newest fleet; and 44 percent said that it has the best entertainment system and the best food. El Al has just introduced an upgraded breakfast menu for first class, and is preparing to upgrade its menus for economy class, under chef Moshe Segev.

Israir, however, was voted by 22 percent of respondents, as offering the best value for money, compared with 18 percent of respondents for El Al, and 16 percent of respondents for Arkia.

Among foreign airlines, Lufthansa is the preferred choice by Israelis. It is seen as the best quality among seven popular carriers — United Airlines (which merged with Continental Airlines), British Airways, Alitalia, Air France-KLM, Swiss, Delta Airlines, and Iberia. Lufthansa makes 21 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Germany (fourteen flights to Frankfurt, five flights to Munich, and two flights to Berlin). It scored top place in most of the survey’s categories.

British Airways, which earlier this month announced that it will increase its seat capacity on its Israel routes by 12 percent and will make three daily flights between Ben Gurion Airport and Heathrow, was perceived as having the safest flight route, voted by 8 percent of respondents, slightly more than Lufthansa. Iberia is seen has having the best value, and Air France-KLM is perceived as among the most expensive, surpassed only by United Airlines.

Delta Airlines, ranked 11th in the survey, carried 321,000 passenger between the US and Israel in 2011, and Iberia carried 196,000 between Spain and Israel. Iberia tied for 16th place with Turkish Airlines, low-cost Brussels Airlines, and Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA).

58 percent of the respondents said that they preferred scheduled airlines to charter airlines. 79 percent said that the fare was the deciding factor in choosing an airline, followed by 52 percent who cited a direct flight, and 38 percent who cited the flight schedule.


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