British Airways and its Spanish sister airline Iberia cancelled flights to Tel Aviv on Thursday after escalating tensions in Israel led to fears of an all-out war with the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The cancellations came days after Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport was briefly shut after coming under attack from rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.
“The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” a spokesperson for British Airways said as the airline confirmed that both flights set to depart London Heathrow for Tel Aviv on Thursday had been cancelled.
Iberia, which is owned by the same parent company as BA, also cancelled its single Madrid -Tel Aviv service on Thursday. One of Iberia’s planes was forced to divert over the Mediterranean Sea and go into a holding pattern on Tuesday night as Israel’s Iron Dome defence system shot down rockets aimed at Ben Gurion airport.
The airport was briefly evacuated on Tuesday as passengers and staff were rushed to bomb shelters.
On Wednesday, American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines confirmed they had temporarily halted flights to Tel Aviv amidst the escalating tension.
Hamas has managed to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel within such a short space of time that some are able to break through the Iron Dome defences. Clashes have also erupted between Israeli Arabs and right-wing Israeli citizens in towns and cities across Israel causing another headache for airlines trying to operate flights to the country.
British low-cost airline easyJet, however, said it would continue operating flights to Israel but a spokesperson for the airline said it was “monitoring” the situation. Lufthansa had also planned to operate its Frankfurt to Tel Aviv service on Friday but later cancelled the service.
A spokesperson for Israel’s national carrier El Al also said it would “keep the skies” open with no plans to cancel flights as yet. The airline will make Whatsapp messaging free on all flights with Wi-Fi installed so that passengers can keep in tough with loved ones to let them know they are safe.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.