A growing number of governments are sending aircraft to Israel to airlift their citizens out of the country, after many commercial airlines suspended operations following the surprise attack by Hamas militants over the weekend.
(Bloomberg) — A growing number of governments are sending aircraft to Israel to airlift their citizens out of the country, after many commercial airlines suspended operations following the surprise attack by Hamas militants over the weekend.
Germany’s Foreign Office said late Tuesday that it plans to operate flights chartered from Deutsche Lufthansa AG on Thursday and Friday to help evacuate citizens. Air France is sending a Boeing Co. 777-300 with 381 seats to Tel Aviv on Thursday to pick up French nationals in a single-day turnaround flight.
Extracting foreign citizens from Israel has been complicated by the suspension of a large number of commercial flights as airlines avoid flying into what’s been declared a war zone. Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport usually handles about 300 outbound flights a day, and more than a third of scheduled departures are now canceled, according to Flightradar24.
On Tuesday, Turkish Airlines, which offers the most connections to Israel behind Israel flagship carrier El Al, joined the list of international carriers pulling their service the country. The major US carriers have also stopped flying to Israel, partly because the long distance would require crews to spend the night in the country.
Swiss will fly to Tel Aviv on Wednesday with an aircraft offering 215 seats, returning on the same day. Tickets for the flights, which are operated in coordination with the Swiss foreign ministry, can only be booked via a special hotline and are reserved for Swiss nationals.
Already on Sunday, Poland sent two Hercules military transports planes to evacuate citizens from Israel, with another Boeing aircraft following later that day to retrieve more people.
Bulgaria sent its government jet to evacuate more than 180 people in two flights late Sunday and early Monday, with Transport Minister Georgi Gvozdeikov joining one of trips.
Hard to Leave
By Monday morning, Hungary had evacuated 325 citizens from Israel via army planes dispatched to Tel Aviv.
The government continues to work on evacuating citizens who are still in the country and want to leave, said Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, adding that airlifting them has become more challenging due to flight cancellations and rocket attacks.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult and dangerous to leave Israel by air,” Szijjarto said on Wednesday. He said four land border crossings, including three to Jordan and one to Egypt, remained open during the day and may be another way to leave Israel.
Australia has organised two flights, operated by Qantas Airways Ltd, to fly Friday from Tel Aviv to London, for any of its citizens to evacuate Israel, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced Wednesday.
Norwegian will set up a special flight from Tel Aviv to Oslo, with a tentative departure on Wednesday night to fly Norwegian and other Nordic citizens out of Israel.
“The flight is operated on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the carrier said. “The objective is to help passengers that are stranded in Israel.”
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd are still flying between Tel Aviv and London. However, there was no availability on British Airways on the route until Oct. 17, with the cheapest available tickets in premium economy costing about $830.
A BA spokesman said flights from Tel Aviv to London are very busy, with hardly any seats available.
Passengers who want to leave immediately could fly to London with Turkish low-cost operator Pegasus Hava via Istanbul for $625, or take a 20-hour flight with Emirates via Dubai for $1,150.
“We are closely monitoring the evolving situation,” a UK government spokesperson said. “Commercial flights are running out of Israel. British nationals should check with airlines and travel insurers before travelling.”
–With assistance from Danny Lee, Albertina Torsoli, Agnieszka Barteczko, Zoltan Simon and Slav Okov.
(Updates with UK government comment in last paragraph.)
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