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Israeli carrier El Al to start Dublin route to connect tech hubs

FILE PHOTO: An El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 737 airplane takes off from the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas airport

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -El Al Israel Airlines said on Monday it will launch nonstop flights between Tel Aviv and Dublin early next year, connecting Israel's and Ireland's robust high-tech sectors and encouraging Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

El Al will operate three flights a week on the route beginning March 26, the Israeli flag carrier said.

"A large Israeli community lives in Dublin, mainly high-tech workers who work in international tech companies that are based in Dublin to serve Europe and the Middle East," noted chief executive Dina Ben Tal Ganancia.

She added that Ireland has a large Catholic population, making it a potential source of inbound tourism for pilgrims and clergy.

Israeli tech executives have been pushing for a direct Tel Aviv-Dublin route for years. In 2015, the Ireland-Israel Business Network had petitioned both El Al and Irish carrier Aer Lingus to start the route, given Dublin's position midway between Tel Aviv and New York and site of the European headquarters for many tech giants.

El Al in 2019 had said it would fly to Dublin as of May 2020 but that plan was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In September it said it would start nonstop flights to Tokyo next year while hoping to soon launch a Tel Aviv-Melbourne route as travel has rebounded from a slump during the pandemic.

To meet demand on long-haul routes, El Al said it planned to add a 16th Boeing 787 in 2023.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer, Editing by Louise Heavens)