El Al Airlines posts record profit, revenue up

TEL AVIV Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:28am EST

TEL AVIV Nov 13 (Reuters) - El Al Israel Airlines posted a 54 percent rise in third-quarter net profit, boosted by higher revenue and by efficiency measures as the company continued to cut its workforce.

Net profit at Israel's flag carrier rose to a record $57.9 million from $37.5 million a year earlier, El Al said on Wednesday. Revenue increased 6.2 percent to $643.3 million - the highest in five years - as passenger revenue grew 6.1 percent while cargo revenue dipped 0.8 percent.

Chief Executive Elyezer Shkedy said the airline faced increased competition in the quarter as foreign airlines increased the number of seats offered by 14 percent.

"The main change was due to the dramatic increase in the activity of Turkish airlines to and from Israel, which amounts to an incomprehensible support of the Israeli government in the international expansion of Turkish carriers at the expense of Israeli airlines, which are prevented from flying to Turkey," Shkedy said.

He said the Turkish carriers have rights to operate 126 flight segments a week, compared with none for Israeli carriers to Turkey and called on the Israeli government to act to enable Israeli airlines to compete fairly.

The company's workforce of 6,109 employees was down from 6,136 a year ago.

Operating costs rose 5.6 percent to $483.6 million due to higher fuel expenses.

El Al is in the process of renewing its fleet and received the first of eight narrow-body 737-900s purchased from Boeing Co in October.

El Al's load factor - a measure of seats sold - rose to 84.8 percent from 84.5 percent a year earlier while its market share at Ben-Gurion International Airport slipped to 30.2 percent.