Airlines Suspend Flights After Israel Declares State of War

A growing number of international airlines suspended flights to Israel, which declared a state of war following the surprise attack by Hamas over the weekend, with US authorities advising carriers to monitor the situation before resuming operations.

(Bloomberg) — A growing number of international airlines suspended flights to Israel, which declared a state of war following the surprise attack by Hamas over the weekend, with US authorities advising carriers to monitor the situation before resuming operations. 

US carriers including Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc and American Airlines Group Inc. canceled their service to Tel Aviv, as did European airlines such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM, alongside budget specialist Wizz Air Holdings Plc from Hungary. 

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a Notams, or notice to air missions, telling operators to review the current security situation. 

“Operators are advised to exercise caution,” the FAA said. “Delays are expected, operators should calculate fuel accordingly.”

Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv typically handles about 300 departures a day, according to data on FlightRadar24. The most popular service is to Istanbul with 105 flights a week, followed by Larnaca in Cyprus, and Antalya in Turkey. Dubai, Athens, Rome, Paris and Vienna are all among the top 10, the flight tracking website showed.

North American routes to Israel include Air Canada from Toronto and Montreal; Delta from New York, Boston and Atlanta; United from Washington Dulles, Newark, Chicago, and San Francisco; and American Airlines also from New York.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. has canceled some of its flights into and out of Tel Aviv and said its flying program remains under “constant review.” British Airways said it plans to operate flights over the coming days with adjusted departure times and that it has introduced a flexible booking policy allowing customers to change their travel dates free of charge.

Israeli flag carrier, El Al Israel Airlines and Turkish carriers Pegasus Hava and Turkish Airlines continued to offer some flights. Emirates and FlyDubai flights from Tel Aviv continued to be scheduled for later in the day, according to data from FlightRadar24.

Conflict Bulletin

Airline shares dropped, with the Bloomberg World Airlines Index losing as much as 1.5% on Monday. The conflict, now in its third day, is driving up the price of oil and thereby aviation fuel, the single-biggest expense for airlines.

British Airways parent IAG SE  led declines in Europe, dropping as much as 4.8%, while Lufthansa lost 3.8%. Ryanair Holdings Plc, which runs a service to Tel Aviv, retreated as much as 3.2%.

Avoiding Israeli airspace, while relatively small, will add another complication for airliners crossing into major hubs in the Persian Gulf and beyond. Syrian airspace to the north has remain shut to many operators for years amid the civil war in the country, while Russian and Ukrainian fly zones — constituting the biggest landmass on the planet — have also been off limits to many airlines for more than a year.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency issued a so-called Conflict Zone Information Bulletin for Israeli air space.

“Air operators are recommended to ensure that a robust risk assessment is in place together with a high level of contingency planning for their operations and to be ready for short notice instructions from the Israeli authorities,” EASA said.

‘Not Prudent’

Several Asian carriers said they would suspend services to Israel, including Air India Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., after attacks erupted around the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, killing more than 1,000 Israelis. Israeli forces have hit more than 1,000 targets in Gaza, including rocket launching sites, and four combat divisions have been mobilized. 

Iberia Express is flying two return flights to Tel Aviv today, after cancellations on Saturday and maintaining flights on Sunday.

“In the coming days we will adapt our schedule to the situation in the country and inform affected customers,” Iberia Express said on a Facebook post Sunday.

The airline, which introduced two daily return flights to Israel in March, will most likely only fly one return flight for the foreseeable future, according to a spokesperson.

The head of American Airline’s pilots union said members shouldn’t fly to Israel until the situation is safe.

“It is not prudent or appropriate to knowingly put our flight crews and passengers in harm’s way by maintaining flights into a war zone,” Allied Pilots Association President Ed Sicher said in a statement. “I am directing all pilots to cease flight operations to Israel until we can be reasonably assured of the region’s safety and security.”

Sicher cited a US State Department travel advisory issued Sunday that said the situation in Israel is unpredictable and “mortar and rocket fire may take place without warning.” 

American Airlines operates a daily service from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Tel Aviv. It stopped its Miami-Tel Aviv service in March. According to its website, the carrier is providing a window for customers to change the date of their flights free of charge in the coming days. 

–With assistance from Danny Lee, Clara Hernanz Lizarraga and Charlotte Ryan.

(Updates with flight statistics for Tel Aviv)

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