Etihad Airways and flydubai have temporarily halted all flights to Tel Aviv, joining a slew of American and European airlines who have already nixed flights to Israel over security fears arising from an escalating conflict in the region.
After the likes of American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines first cancelled flights to Israel last Wednesday, Etihad Airways said it would keep flying between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi but would “monitor the situation”.
A statement posted to the airline’s website now said it would halt flights to Israel from Sunday onwards. “Etihad is monitoring the situation in Israel and continues to maintain close contact with authorities and security intelligence providers,” the airline said.
flydubai has also axed all of its services to Israel as the conflict with the militant Palestinian group Hamas intensified over the weekend.
Direct flights between the UAE and Israel only recently became possible after the shock announcement last August that the two countries would normalize relations for the first time in their respective histories.
The deal was forged during talks brokered by the Trump administration in what was seen as a major development for political relations in the Middle East.
flydubai launched flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv last November, while Etihad Airways only started operating flights in April. Emirates Airline was planning to launch its own flights to Tel Aviv next month.
Last week, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport was briefly shut after Hamas fired a volley of rockets towards the airport. Passengers and staff were forced to run for cover and planes bound for Tel Aviv had to divert into holding patters away from the fighting.
Israel is protected by the Iron Dome system which can shoot down rockets fired into its territory by Hamas but the system isn’t foolproof and some rockets have been able to evade interception.
Many European airlines, including British Airways and Iberia, cancelled flights to Israel on Thursday fearing a repeat of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 which was shot from the sky by an anti-aircraft missile over Ukraine in 2014.
The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed his “grave concern over the escalating spiral of violence in Israel and Palestine” on Saturday and called for the “immediate cessation of violence and hostilities”.
“The events of the past week have been a somber reminder of the urgent need for peaceful dialogue and reconciliation. We reflect on the promise that the Abraham Accords hold for current and future generations, to live with their neighbors in peace, dignity and prosperity,” he added.
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.