UP launches to five destinations as El Al’s LCC starts operations

UP, UP and away with some beautiful balloons*. El Al’s in-house low-cost airline, UP, launched on 30 March in Tel Aviv with El Al President & CEO David Maimon cutting the ribbon. So far the airline is operating five routes, all of which used to be operated by El Al, using 180-seat 737-800s. *With apologies to The Johnny Mann Singers’ global hit of 1967.

The track record of when legacy-carriers decide to create in-house low-cost subsidiaries has been decidedly mixed, to say the least. For every success (such as Qantas’ Jetstar) there have been plenty of apparent failures (Delta’s song, KLM’s buzz, SAS’ snowflake, LOT’s centralwings, United’s TED), so the recent launch of El Al’s new low-cost carrier UP is a brave step for the Israeli national airline.

Five routes selected all face intense competition

The airline, which launched at the start of the summer season on 30 March, is so far offering just five routes from Tel Aviv, all flown using five 737-800s leased from the parent company. A summary of the destinations served and the competition they face is shown in the following table.

Destination UP WF Sector length Competition (WF)
Berlin (SXF) 11 2,857 km easyJet (3), Israir (2)
Budapest (BUD) 8 2,166 km Wizz Air (7)
Kiev (KBP) 7 2,047 km Ukraine International Airlines (19)
Larnaca (LCA) 3 338 km Cyprus Airways (8), Arkia Israel Airlines (5)
Prague (PRG) 7 2,634 km Czech Airlines (5), SmartWings (5), Wizz Air (3)
Source: Innovata / Diio Mi.

According to the airline’s website, by 30 June Berlin, Budapest, Kiev and Prague will each be served with 11 weekly flights, while Larnaca will be served six times weekly. Berlin and Budapest frequencies will increase to 12 times weekly during the peak summer period. There are no flights to any destinations on Saturdays.

All of these routes were previously flown by El Al itself, and face intense competition from established LCCs (such as easyJet and Wizz Air), and other flag carriers. El Al has clearly decided that it needs a lower-cost operation to compete in these markets, where demand is likely to be driven primarily by leisure, rather than business traffic.

Ribbons were cut in both Berlin and Budapest during the last week to welcome the new UP services. Both routes will be served with 11-12 weekly flights during the summer season by the El Al subsidiary, and face competition from the likes of easyJet (in Berlin) and Wizz Air (in Budapest).


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