Alguaire (ACN).- The Israeli airline Arkia will offer a total of 20 flights during the summer and 20 more during the winter between Tel Aviv and the Lleida-Alguaire Airport. The new connection will start on the 27th of June and will have a capacity of 110 passengers per flight. Israeli tourists will be better connected to Western Catalonia and the Pyrenees, which host a large offer of ski resorts, adventure sports opportunities, impressing mountain landscapes or unique Romanesque art. Lleida's Pyrenean landscape consists of high peaks, lakes and mountain forests, including the breath-taking National Park of Aigüestortes. It is an ideal area for rafting, horse-riding or trekking in the summertime or for snowboarding or skiing during the winter. In addition, the Vall de Boí hosts the densest concentration of Romanesque architecture on the planet, with 9 early churches that were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2000. On top of this, the Israeli Ambassador recently unveiled a route following the mountain paths used by thousands of Jews who crossed the Pyrenees to escape Nazi persecution. The building of Lleida-Alguaire Airport was started by the Catalan Government just before the financial crisis. It was unveiled in 2010 but the facilities have hosted a much smaller activity than initially expected. However, in the last two years, authorities have been trying to promote charter flights bringing skiers from the UK and other countries, or develop other activities such as hosting the Air Formula 1 in 2014 and 2015. In addition, a private company has developed aircraft maintenance facilities within Lleida's Airport.
Arkia will offer a total of 40 flights between Tel Aviv and Lleida-Alguaire; 20 for the summer season (10 per direction) and 20 more for the winter one. The Israeli company will operate Embraer 190 flights, which can carry 110 passengers. The company's objective is to promote new holiday destinations, according to its Business Director, Orly Peleg. She also praised "the great cooperation shown by the Catalan Government and Lleida's Provincial Council" to reach such as an agreement. Peleg stated that the new flight "is the beginning of a long cooperation". Arkia is Israel's second largest airline, with a fleet of 9 aircraft that fly to 50 destinations in 28 European countries and former Soviet Republics.
The company also offer tourist services, either directly or through its subsidiary companies. Therefore Arkia offer their clients the possibility to buy not only a flying ticket but entire holiday packages, such as ski trips, tours or stays in hotels, particularly in the main European cities or in Mediterranean destinations. The company has already been operating a flight between Israel and Barcelona since 2008. The airline transports around 1 million passengers, totalling all its routes in a year.
Lleida's Provincial Council has been working for months to reach a deal with a tour-operator from Israel to bring tourists to the area through Lleida-Alguaire Airport. Israeli visitors have increasingly discovered Lleida Pyrenees in the last few years, particularly the National Park of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici. In addition, in the autumn of 2013, the Provincial Council presented the route 'Perseguits i Salvats' ('Persecuted and Saved'), which tells the story of the escape paths used by thousands of Jewish refugees during the Second World War, who were running away from the Nazi Holocaust in Central Europe and France through the Pyrenees.
Currently, Lleida-Alguaire has a few regular flights run by Thomas Cook linking it with some UK cities. Passengers land in Lleida and Thomas Cook takes them to Andorra ski resorts - an hour by bus. There is also a weekly flight operated by Airnostrum that links the Catalan western city with Palma de Mallorca. In the summertime, there are also weekly flights to Menorca and Ibiza.