El Al will fly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his entourage to Italy later this week for the rock-bottom price of $22,000, Channel 12 news reports, a fraction of what is normally charged for chartering such a flight.
The channel reports that the airline will lose money on the flight to Italy; another airline that bid on the same tender proposed a budget of over $100,000.
El Al had insisted that it would win the contract to fly Netanyahu after the premier’s office opened bidding to other airlines, when the flagship carrier was unable to find pilots to fly the Boeing 777 that Netanyahu preferred. Many had suspected the reason to be political and some close to the prime minister called for the airline to be boycotted, which led it to underbid for the contract in order to keep one of its best clients happy.
In January, Netanyahu flew to France on a 777, though sources at the time told the Haaretz daily that the plane was unnecessarily large for such a trip and cost three times more than the 737 that would have been more appropriate.
Netanyahu has faced years of questions over his seeming preference for costly creature comforts while flying, such as having a special bed installed for a short trip to the UK several years ago. An airplane he commissioned for use by the state’s leaders, also a 777, was mothballed by the previous administration as a waste of money, but has since been revived by Netanyahu.