The three major US airlines halted flights with Israel after it was attacked by Hamas over the weekend, while some Middle Eastern and European carriers continued to give passengers an exit route from the developing war.
(Bloomberg) — The three major US airlines halted flights with Israel after it was attacked by Hamas over the weekend, while some Middle Eastern and European carriers continued to give passengers an exit route from the developing war.
Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc and American Airlines Group Inc. canceled services to Tel Aviv, as did European counterparts Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Air France-KLM and budget specialist Wizz Air Holdings Plc.
“Operators are advised to exercise caution,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a notice telling US airlines to review the security situation before resuming operations. “Delays are expected, operators should calculate fuel accordingly.”
In all, airlines suspended fewer than half of all flights to Tel Aviv as of Sunday, based on data from Flightradar24.com. El Al Israel Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier, along with regional carriers Turkish Airlines and its local rival Pegasus Hava, continued to offer flights, giving passengers options to leave. Israel declared a state of war following a surprise attack by Hamas over the weekend, with fighting continuing on Monday.
Read: Israel Latest: Conflict Enters Third Day With Over 1,100 Dead
British Airways and Dubai’s Emirates and FlyDubai were among the airlines still flying to Tel Aviv on Monday. BA plans to adjust its schedule so flights leave London Heathrow in the morning rather than late afternoon, according to a spokesman. The UK carrier introduced a flexible booking policy allowing customers to change their travel dates free of charge.
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.
The UK’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. canceled some services and said its flying program to Tel Aviv remains under “constant review.”
Airline shares dropped, with the Bloomberg World Airlines Index losing as much as 1.5% on Monday. The conflict is driving up the price of oil and thereby aviation fuel, the single-biggest expense for airlines.
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British Airways parent IAG SA led declines in Europe, dropping as much as 5.8%, while Lufthansa lost up to 4.3%. Ryanair Holdings Plc, which runs a service to Tel Aviv, retreated as much as 3.6%.
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.
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. 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 its two scheduled return flights to Tel Aviv on Monday, after cancellations on Saturday and maintaining flights on Sunday. The Spanish airline, also owned by IAG, introduced service to Israel in March. It will most likely flly only one return flight for the foreseeable future, according to a spokesperson.
“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 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 new headline and lead, details on BA plans)
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