Following a turbulent history spanning a quarter of a century, Palestinian Airlines has officially ceased operations. The Palestinian authorities announced their decision Tuesday, and all that remains is to find a buyer for the carrier’s two Fokker F50s.
Not an unexpected call
Another airline has officially ceased operations before the end of 2020. After a few years of minimal operations, Palestinian Airlines has announced that it is closing down services for good, the Jerusalem Post reports. While the Palestinian Transport and Communications Ministry’s decision was made official only earlier this week, it was not unexpected.
The carrier’s two 32-year-old Fokker F50s were put up for sale already in September, and the notice is still up on the carrier’s website. The two aircraft, the only ones remaining in the airline’s fleet, have been leased to Niger Airlines since 2014 and 2015, respectively.
One has since been returned to the Palestinian airline but is located in Amman, Jordan. The upkeep of the aircraft, SU-YAH, is deemed too costly. The lease on the one still with Niger Airlines, SU-YAI, was not renewed due to the ongoing crisis.
Founded following the Oslo Accords
Palestinian Airlines was founded in 1995, following the Oslo II Accord signed by both Israel and Palestine meant to establish an airport in the Gaza Strip. The carrier was set up with financial support from the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. The former donated the two Fokker F50s, and the latter a Boeing 727.
The airline commenced operations in June 1997 with a series of charter flights from Egypt’s Port Said Airport to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Scheduled services began a month later, still from Egypt and the El Arish airport to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Yasser Arafat International Airport in Gaza was funded by Japan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Germany, and designed by Moroccan architects. It opened its doors and runway in November 1998.
The ceremony was attended by US President Bill Clinton and seen as a step towards Palestinian statehood. Following the inauguration, Palestinian Airlines moved all operations to its new home.
Left homeless at the turn of the century
However, the by then renamed Gaza International Airport closed down in October 2000, during what is known as the Second Intifada. Its control tower and radio station were destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in December 2001.
The airline’s base was again relocated to El Arish in Egypt, from where it kept flying to Cairo and Jeddah. However, transporting Palestinians over the Egyptian border for flights proved too much of an added disadvantage. The carrier gave up its 727, and an acquired Ilyushin Il-62 and suspended operations between 2005 and 2012.
As Gaza’s Gush Katif Airport was defunct in 2004, and the Jerusalem Atarot Airport in the West Bank in 2000, Palestine remains without an operational airport.
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