Israel has found itself virtually cut off from the rest of the world after nearly 98 per cent of the airlines that would usually serve the country grounded their flights to and from Tel Aviv and Eilat. There are now only three international airlines serving Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) – United Airlines, Aeroflot and Ethiopian Airlines.
The national carrier El Al grounded its entire fleet March 27 and doesn’t intend to resume any regularly scheduled flights until at least April 4. The airline did, however, say it would continue to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense to operate special repatriation services as and when required.
In a statement posted to the Tel Aviv stock exchange, El Al said it had taken the decision to halt all normal flights because of “concern for the health of our passengers and aircrew and a sharp drop in demand for scheduled flights”. El Al also said grounding its fleet would significantly help it reduce its costs.
The airline has already temporarily laid off the majority of its workforce and has called from urgent state support to stop the airline falling into bankruptcy.
Yesterday, the United States embassy in Israel urged any of citizens wishing to return home to do so as quickly as possible or face being stuck in the country.
“As of today, the only available commercial flight departing from Ben Gurion Airport to the United States is via United Airlines, but that may change at any time,” a statement from the embassy told U.S. citizens.
“To the best of our knowledge, there are currently no available flights from Ben Gurion to other destinations with connections to the United States,” the statement continued.
“U.S. citizens who regularly reside in or wish to travel to the United States must immediately arrange for their departure unless they are willing to remain in Israel for an unlimited period of time or remain outside the United States for a long period of time that is not yet defined.”
And while Qatar Airways has promised to continue flying throughout the Covid-19 crisis in order to get people home, the Doha-based airline most definitely isn’t going to be making any stopovers in Tel Aviv anytime soon.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.