Air Haifa, Israel’s Logistically Challenging Airline Startup

Air Haifa, Israel’s Logistically Challenging Airline Startup

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There’s a new airline in Israel with some big players behind it (both in terms of deep pockets and aviation experience), which makes this concept all the stranger…

Plans for a new airline based at Haifa Airport

As flagged by DansDeals, there are plans to launch a new low cost airline to be based at Haifa Airport (HFA), in the north of Israel. On the surface it sounds exciting to see an Israeli airline launch out of somewhere other than Tel Aviv Airport (TLV), given how busy the airport can get.

There are also some serious people behind the airline, including the former CEO, CCO, and VP of Operations, of EL AL. The biggest shareholder of this new airline is Nir Zuk, founder of Palo Alto Networks.

The plan is to launch passenger operations this year, with initial destinations to include Eilat (ETM) and Bucharest (OTP). The airline will be a low cost carrier, so you can expect low base fares, and then fees for add-ons. The plan is also for Air Haifa to fly small aircraft, which brings us to the big problem with this business model…

Air Haifa’s planned routes

Haifa Airport has a very short runway

Haifa Airport’s runway is only 4,324 feet long, making it too short for any commercial jet to land there. The biggest plane that could land there is the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400. So it sounds like the plan is for Air Haifa to operate turboprop aircraft, which isn’t exactly ideal in terms of per-seat operating costs.

It’s one thing if you’re operating in business markets where people are willing to pay a premium for frequent service, but the difference in per-seat operating costs for an A321neo vs. a Dash 8 is significant, especially for a low cost carrier.

Now, there are plans for the runway at Haifa Airport to be extended by 1,037 feet, meaning that it would eventually be 5,361 feet long. Even that is by no means long, and landing a jet would still be a stretch there depending on conditions.

The runway extension is supposed to happen in the coming years, though there’s not yet an exact timeline. That will be a significant project, as it will involve digging a tunnel so that a road can pass underneath the runway.

On the one hand, you have to give the people behind this airline credit for thinking outside the box, and trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. I suppose they’re trying to “invest” in the airport now, before it gets its runway extension, beating other airlines to it.

On the other hand, they definitely face an uphill battle, running a low cost airline with high cost planes.

Air Haifa will have a hard time competing on cost

Bottom line

Air Haifa is an airline startup that will be based at Israel’s Haifa Airport. While the concept of an airline being based out of another airport in Israel is great, the issue is the very short runway, which prevents jets from flying there. The runway is supposed to be extended in the coming years, so perhaps there’s more potential in the future.

What’s your take on Air Haifa?

Conversations (19)
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  1. Richard Guest

    Ramon has a very long runway.

  2. DK Guest

    One thing I don't understand, is why not use the E175? In fact, what could be really valuable, would be an HFA-IST flight, that would allow people to fly worldwide.

  3. Timothy Guest

    Anyone know why OTP? Is it to plug into Wizz Air or TAROM if they demonstrate enough reliability as a new carrier? And/or because Romania just might join the Schengen Area on January 1, 2024 (assuming Austria drops its veto), reducing immigration hassles for any onward travel in the Schengen Area?

    1. Sergio Guest

      Latest info is they will first and foremost fly to Greece (mainland & islands), Cyprus, Turkey & some Balkan destinations.
      Starting early this year there is another airline, Universal Air, operating a Dash-8 turboprop fleet, flying to destinations in Cyprus & Crete - quite popular with Haifa residents

  4. Azamaraal Diamond

    Minimum takeoff distance for C100 er A220-100 is listed at 4800 feet.

    For short distances (less than a couple of hours) the Q400 operating parameters have indicated that the Q400 is as quick and costs much less to operate "regionally".

    "Alaska" used to fly Q400 three times daily SEA-YLW for 20 years. They just switched to an Embraer 175 operating X1 and recently cancelled it. We no longer have service. Obviously the economics changed by going Embraer sadly.

  5. Chris Guest

    After the extension E295 could operate out of there without an issue. Runway would be slightly longer than FLR without the terrain issues.

  6. Ross Guest

    Let's write a story about Haifa without mentioning its population or what reasons might attract tourists or businesspeople to travel there. I mean, what do you want, facts?

  7. skedguy Guest

    Actually the per seat cost of a DH4 with 74 seats was comparable to that of a A320 with AC costing rules so I have no doubt that a 90 seat DH4 would be quite cheap.

  8. Haifaman Guest

    It sounds more like a scheme to force the Israeli government to develop Haifa airport, rather than a real airline. But given the years of fights to save HFA, this is probably a good thing.

  9. Garik Guest

    TLV is so overwhelmed by the number of passengers that is consider going to Haifa and I live in Jerusalem. It might be that they've found low cost aircraft leasing rates. That was an old LY strategy.

  10. Danielk Guest

    Years ago there were flights from Haifa to l
    LCA and ETH before it was closed.
    Israel is a small country and with direct trains to TLV from Haifa station, it will probably at best be a niche route for business or sailors embarking in the port.

  11. Edbeauregard Guest

    I'm wondering if they don't know something that we don't know which makes it a better idea than it seems at the moment.

  12. Al Guest

    If there was an airport in northern Israel that could handle narrow bodies, do people think it could attract as solid amount of traffic? I figure LCCs could make that work and perhaps some mainline European airlines that view it as a good additional source of connecting traffic.

  13. Moe Guest

    I'm very excited at the possibility of not having to rely on the roads to travel and instead take a plane. The anarchist leftists are causing havoc on the roads and it can take hours to go a few kilometers...

    1. Santos Guest

      Interesting how the Israeli military is in alliance with those “anarchist leftists”…

    2. markus Guest

      You mean the 5 people that said something negative vs the 10,s of thousands that support it? lol. Stick to air travel comments buddy

    3. Moses Guest

      I believe there is a train direct Haifa to the airport terminal at TLV.

  14. Joe Guest

    The local market and size of aircraft make sense, even if the cost structure doesn’t. Like any new venture, they’ll have to get it wrong a few times before they figure it out and get it right, so that process starts now. 2030 Haifa will thank them for starting the process today.

  15. David B Guest

    As I residen of Haifa metro area, I'm very excited! I had the opportunity to fly out of HFA to Rhodes with Tus Air (U8) on a Saab 340B. It was such a quick and comfy experience compared to TLV, that I would definitely pay (a little bit) extra if I cound fly out of HFA.
    However, I do share your skepticism about the viability of the venture. There were quite a few attempts...

    As I residen of Haifa metro area, I'm very excited! I had the opportunity to fly out of HFA to Rhodes with Tus Air (U8) on a Saab 340B. It was such a quick and comfy experience compared to TLV, that I would definitely pay (a little bit) extra if I cound fly out of HFA.
    However, I do share your skepticism about the viability of the venture. There were quite a few attempts at schedule or seasonal service out of HFA, all of them eventually pulled out.
    After not seeing schedule passenger traffic since 2019, this summer Israir (6H) launched services to Larnca and Rhodes using a Dash 8 leased from the Maltese Universal Air. Tickets have about a 20%-30% mark-up over same routes from TLV.

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Sergio Guest

Latest info is they will first and foremost fly to Greece (mainland & islands), Cyprus, Turkey & some Balkan destinations. Starting early this year there is another airline, Universal Air, operating a Dash-8 turboprop fleet, flying to destinations in Cyprus & Crete - quite popular with Haifa residents

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Richard Guest

Ramon has a very long runway.

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DK Guest

One thing I don't understand, is why not use the E175? In fact, what could be really valuable, would be an HFA-IST flight, that would allow people to fly worldwide.

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