Palestinian airline resumes flights

Filed on May 10, 2012

The Palestinian national carrier, grounded since 2005, has resumed operations with flights between Egypt’s El-Arish and Amman, its director general told AFP on Thursday.

“We started yesterday from Amman to El-Arish and from El-Arish to Amman,” Palestinian Airlines director general Zeyad Albad said.

“We are going to have flights from El-Arish to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) soon too, and we are trying to set up some new routes to Turkey and the (United Arab) Emirates,” he said.

Albad said the resumption of flights was intended to make life easier for Palestinians travelling from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

El-Arish, in northern Sinai, lies around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Rafah crossing.

“It’s designed to help people who are coming out of Gaza to other places. Before now they had to go 400, 500 kilometres (250, 300 miles) to the nearest airport,” Albad said.

“It’s very difficult for them, especially for those with families and in the summer, so we are trying to relieve the pressure on them.”

Albad said the resumption was also good for Palestinian Airlines, which has seen its four-plane fleet grounded since 2005.

“It’s for our benefit too. Now we are flying our two Fokkers, which carry 60 people and are good for the flight to Amman,” he said.

Founded in 1995, Palestinian Airlines once took passengers from Gaza’s Yasser Arafat International Airport to various destinations in the Middle East.

But it was forced to suspend operations from Gaza after Israel imposed restrictions on the airport and then rendered it unusable by tearing up its runways and bombing it in 2001.

Albad said the El-Arish to Amman route continued operating through 2005, when all planes were grounded.

For now the airline will operate two flights a week between Amman and El Arish.

Albad said flights to Jeddah could start as soon as next week, if Saudi permission came through, and that a flight to Mecca catering to pilgrims was also being studied.

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