December 2, 2009 / 12:31 AM / 9 years ago

El Al Airlines seeks code-share with U.S. carriers

NEW YORK, Dec 1 (Reuters) - El Al Airlines (ELAL.TA) is exploring code-share partnerships with U.S. domestic carriers as it looks to raise its global profile, the outgoing president and chief executive of the Israeli airline said on Tuesday.

El Al, which launched a code-share agreement with AMR Corp’s AMR.N American Airlines in September 2008, said it hopes to announce partnerships with other U.S. carriers “very soon.”

“We’re working on developing another two or three special agreements and new relationships with domestic American carriers,” Chief Executive Haim Romano told reporters at a New York press event.

Romano is slated to leave his post on Jan. 1. He is to be replaced by Elyezer Shkedi, a former commander-in-chief of the Israeli Air Force.

Code-share agreements allow participating airlines to coordinate on pricing and scheduling.

Part of El Al’s partnership with American has been put on hold since the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Israel’s aviation safety ranking to a category two last December. The designation precluded the carrier from developing new routes in the United States.

Romano said he hopes the full agreement with American will come to fruition by mid-2010. Meanwhile, he is seeking other partnerships. About 40 percent of the airline’s expenses are dedicated to security efforts, he added.

Global demand for air travel has waned in the past year, forcing airlines around the world to drop fares to fill seats. El Al’s third-quarter revenue slid 18 percent from a year earlier due to lower fares and a weak cargo market.

The airline is also looking toward its Latin American routes for growth and hopes to add a fourth nonstop flight from Tel Aviv to Sao Paulo.

“The economic situation in Brazil is getting better,” Romano said. “On the other side, there are two big Jewish communities in Latin America,” referring to Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. (Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman, editing by Leslie Gevirtz) ((deepa.seetharaman@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646 223-6125; Reuters Messaging: deepa.seetharaman.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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