Air Transport World

Life beyond the megacarriers. (Tower Air) (Company Profile)

NEW YORK--Morris Nachtomi proudly points to a plaque hanging in his office at Tower Air's Spartan headquarters here on the periphery of Kennedy Airport. It

was presented to Tower by the Israeli Minister of Transport and commends the airline for maintaining service to Israel during the Persian Gulf War. Tower Air, a U.S.-certificated carrier, was the only non-Israeli airline to operate to Tel Aviv continuously throughout the Gulf crisis. "We felt that it was important to demonstrate loyalty and consistency of service to a market that was as important as the Israeli market is to Tower," says Nachtomi, who, in addition to owning the airline, serves as its chairman and CEO.

It might seem odd that tiny Tower would continue to fly where Goliaths feared to tread but it is a reflection of the inextricable link between the doughty New York-based carrier and the state of Israel. As a child, Nachtomi and his family emigrated to Israel only two years after that nation won its independence. His airline pedigree includes 30 years spent at the national flag carrier, El Al Israel Airlines. In 1980, he took early retirement and emigrated to New York, where he and other El Al expatriates became involved with Flying Tigers in a U.S.-Israel charter operation that evolved into Tower Air in 1983. Today, Tower claims a 17% share of the U.S.-Israel direct market, the largest of any U.S. carrier.

So when the war broke out and Tower was forced to cancel its New York-Tel Aviv flights for lack of insurance, it made the business decision to operate the in-bound legs anyway, regardless of cost. "Flying to Israel was not economically viable. We did it at a loss. But we felt that was a lesser investment than the one that would be required in order to return to the market at the end of hostilities," Nachtomi tells ATW.

Paradoxically, 1990 and 1991 were the two most profitable years in the airline's history, according to Nachtomi. …

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