United Airlines, Delta and American Airlines have all temporarily suspended flights to Israel after Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport came under sustained rocket attack on Tuesday evening.
Hamas claimed responsibility for firing hundreds of rockets from inside Gaza towards Tel Aviv in what is seen as a major escalation in the latest conflict between the two sides.
Israel’s Iron Dome defence system managed to intercept the vast majority of rockets fired from Gaza and none hit the airport. Elsewhere, one Israeli civilian was killed when a rocket hit an apartment and dozens more were injured.
Delta Air Lines evacuated crew members who were still in the country on its last flight to New York JFK after Ben Gurion was given the all-clear to reopen late last night. A spokesperson confirmed that flights have now been cancelled as the airline assesses the situation.
“Our Tel Aviv services are cancelled today (Wednesday) and we’re closely monitoring the situation,” the airline said in an emailed statement. “We also have a waiver out for customers who may be impacted by the cancelations.”
United Airlines has cancelled flights from Chicago (ORD), San Francisco (SFO) and Newark (EWR) on May 11 and 12. “The safety of our customers and crew is our highest priority,” a spokesperson for the airline said in an emailed statement.
“Due to the current situation in Israel, we cancelled round trip flights to and from Tel Aviv on May 11 and May 12. We have issued a travel waiver to allow customers to adjust their travel through May 25 and will continue to monitor the situation.”
American Airlines has also temporarily suspended its Tel Aviv service from JFK and issued a travel waiver. Many other airlines, however, continued to operate flights to Tel Aviv on Wednesday despite the threat of further attacks.
Etihad Airways, which only started flying regularly scheduled services to Israel earlier this year following the UAE’s surprise decision to normalize relation with Israel, said it was “closely monitoring the situation” but would continue flying as scheduled for the time being.
A spokesperson for flydubai also said the budget carrier wouldn’t suspend services from Dubai to Tel Aviv for the time being. In 2015, a flydubai operated Boeing 737 was hit by gunfire at Baghdad International Airport.
On Saturday, the UAE’s minister of state Khalifa Shaheen Almarar expressed condemnation at Israel’s treatment of Palestinian’s in the Al Aqsa mosque complex and in East Jerusalem where tensions boiled over on Saturday.
The US State Department only lowered its threat advisory for Israel several days ago to Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. The downgrade was based on Israel’s successful vaccination program and plummeting COVID-19 infection rates.
The US embassy in Israel issued a security alert on Tuesday warning of continued rocket attacks and violence.
Airlines had been hoping to cash in on Israel’s success in handling the pandemic and the likes of Delta, United and American were planning to significantly increase flights to the country this summer.
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.