An extensive dialogue at this year’s APEX/IFSA EXPO saw Dina Ben Tal Ganancia, the CEO of EL AL, engage with BBC presenter Aaron Heslehurst, on a variety of topics such as EL AL’s expanding route network, its recently unveiled partnership with Delta Air Lines, and why there are still so few female CEOs in the industry.
Unlocking new horizons amidst over-flights game changer
With the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia having opened up its airspace for flights to and from Israel in 2022, something Ben Tal Ganancia calls a “game changer”, new destinations are now within reach for the airline.
Ben Tal Ganancia gave the example of Bangkok, Thailand, a popular destination for Israeli visitors. The Saudi overflight rights have shortened the journey by three hours, meaning that the airline can serve it with double daily flights.
Looking ahead, Ben Tal Ganancia said that more destinations are now under consideration in a strategic review, such as the Philippines, and possibly even Australia. When it comes to the Americas, Latin American destinations are also now in view.
Delta partnership opens up new destinations
However, key to offering EL AL passengers more connectivity to the Americas, has been the strategic partnership with Delta, which was announced in June of this year.
As part of this, initially, customers connecting onto Delta or EL AL’s services will be able to check in for their entire journey, with boarding passes issued and bags checked through to their destination.
Delta offers up to 200 same-day connections from Tel Aviv via its U.S. gateways Atlanta, Boston, and New York-JFK while EL AL offers customers additional nonstop service to Tel Aviv from Boston and New York-JFK, alongside their Los Angeles, Miami, and Newark service.
Scope for more transit traffic
Ben Tal Ganancia said that though EL AL has traditionally been a point to point airline, developments such as the Saudi overflight rights and the Delta partnership open up possibilities for more transit traffic via the airline’s Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport home.
One example is Cyprus to North America traffic, with Ben Tal Ganancia pointing out that currently there are no direct flights to the USA from Cyprus.
While security is obviously very strict at Ben Gurion Airport, Ben Tal Ganancia did say that high tech solutions could increasingly come into play for transit passengers: “These days, you know, even when security is high, with high technology, there are ways to do this then a more simplified way. So we’ve worked together with the airport, the Israeli effort to make it more transparent and more seamless.”
EL AL’s five star recognition
At the APEX / IFSA Awards, it was announced that EL AL is an APEX Five Star Global Airline. To coincide with this, Ben Tal Ganancia talked about some of the service enhancements that have happened at the airline.
This includes bringing on Michelin Star Chef, Assat Granit to revamp its new menu across all flight classes. On Israel’s independence day on April 26th, EL AL guests got a preview of what the new menu might look like, with a special one time only falafel only menu, created by Granit with Israeli chain Falafel b’Ribua (Falafel in the Square).
This comes as the airline’s many long routes, such as 14 hours LAX – TLV, means you are serving them several meals during the flight, and “you need to keep them happy.”
Breaking down barriers
With only 7% of airline CEOs being women, Dina Ben Tal Ganancia is still something of a rarity.
When looking at why this is so, Ben Tal Ganancia first of all pointed out that at the higher echelons, “traditionally, the industry is filled with people, men, mostly… they’re there 20 to 30 years, 40 years. So it takes time to bring fresh blood into it.”
However, at the same time, she said that there is often an assumption that out of a group of senior executives, it’s one of the men who will be CEO, when, “the woman needs to shout loud and clear they want to be the next CEO.”
Ben Tal Ganancia does however envisage the airline hiring more female pilots in future. This comes as EL AL recruits many ex Israeli Air Force pilots, and Israel’s armed forces have an active programme to hire more women to fly aircraft.
The conversation ended with a question about what 2030 might look like for the airline. Here, Ben Tal Ganancia said that she hoped for a future where they would be “fly to Australia and every continent in the world”, be sustainable and would maybe even see the introduction of “maybe hybrid airplanes.”