US Airways Group Inc. will begin flying to the Middle East with year-around service between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv, Israel, next July.
The Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier said it will offer one daily nonstop flight and will begin service July 2, subject to approval by U.S. Department of Transportation and Israeli officials.
Philadelphia's dominant airline will use new longer-range Airbus 330-200 aircraft, with capacity for more than 250 passengers, that are scheduled for delivery in the spring.
US Airways CEO Doug Parker was at Philadelphia International Airport today, along with Mayor Nutter, to detail the new service.
Parker said the carrier, which transports two-thirds of Philadelphia passengers, is getting 17 new long-haul, wide-body aircraft by 2011, "which bodes well for Philadelphia's international service, and we'd like to begin more service to Europe and to the Middle East and Asia in the coming years."
The 5,700-mile Tel Aviv route would be the longest nonstop segment in the US Airways network.
"Announcing our first service to the Middle East is the perfect follow-up to our London-Heathrow service, which began in March," Parker said.
US Airways began service from Philadelphia to Heathrow Airport in March.
Said Mayor Nutter: "We appreciate US Airways' commitment to enhancing our city's economy and culture with this new service. We look forward to working with US Airways to further establish Philadelphia as a major international gateway."
Parker said the company hopes to start selling tickets by Labor Day, but added that it was too early to know the fares. Tel Aviv is Israel's finance center, and a gateway to tourism there.
The Tel Aviv departure will be at 9:15 p.m., with arrival at 3:15 p.m., Tel Aviv time, the following day. The return flight will leave Tel Aviv at 11:50 p.m. and arrive in Philadelphia at 5:10 a.m. (Philadelphia time) the following day. Return service is scheduled to begin July 3.
The airline may announce in the fall two more international routes to start next summer. Among the cities under consideration are Moscow; Oslo, Norway; and Istanbul, Turkey, an airline official said.
US Airways flies from Philadelphia to 34 destinations in Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada. The airline said in May that it would seek a one-year delay to its new Philadelphia-Beijing service until March 2010.
"You might be wondering why starting Tel Aviv is any different in an environment where fuel is costly," Parker said at today's announcement. "China is a developing international market from the United States, whereas Tel Aviv is very established and we absolutely know that our Tel Aviv service has better economics."
Based on current fuel prices, Parker said, it would cost $10 million to $12 million more to fly to Beijing (14 to 16 hours) than fuel costs to Tel Aviv (11 to 12 hours).