Major airlines suspend flights after attack on Israel

By Reuters   October 9, 2023 | 04:26 pm PT
Major airlines suspend flights after attack on Israel
El Al Israel Airlines planes are seen on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 10, 2020. Photo by Reuters
Major international air carriers suspended or scaled back flights to or from Tel Aviv, while Russia banned night flights to Israel, after a surprise attack by Hamas militants over the weekend and a threat of escalating conflict raised safety concerns.

About 50% of scheduled Tel Aviv flights did not operate on Sunday and a third were canceled as of Monday evening in Israel, according to Flightradar24, a flight tracking website.

U.S. air carriers United Airlines and American Airlines suspended direct flights to Israel after the Federal Aviation Administration urged airlines to exercise caution. Delta Air Lines said on Monday it would cancel flights to and from Israel until the end of the month.

Many European airlines have also canceled flights.

Israel's national carrier El Al was the exception - adding more flights to bring reservists back from around the world to assist in the country's biggest mobilization in history.

Fighters from Islamist group Hamas killed at least 900 people and abducted dozens of hostages in Saturday's attacks, the deadliest such incursion in decades, prompting Israel to retaliate by pounding the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

Israel's tourism sector, driven by beach- and party-goers in Tel Aviv and historical tours to sites like Jerusalem, is set to take a major hit as flight cancelations pile up. Tourism makes up 3.6% of total employment, according to OECD data.

U.S. cruise operators Royal Caribbean and Carnival said they had "adjusted" their itineraries in the Israel area.

"So far clients haven't been canceling, but they are being more precautious about traveling. We've been getting a lot of inquiries about safety," said Matt Berna, Americas President of Intrepid Travel, a group tour and travel company.

Regulators including the FAA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and Israel's aviation authority urged airlines to use caution in the region's airspace, but stopped short of suspending flights.

Russia, though, restricted flights from going to Israel before 0900 GMT due to what it called an "unstable political and military situation" and advised airlines to monitor risks during daylight.

Israel's civil aviation authority asked airlines to "review current security and threat information" and changed some air traffic routes. It noted that delays were expected and advised airlines to carry extra fuel.

U.S. airlines normally run direct services from major cities including New York, Chicago, Washington and Miami.

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