Emirates Airline said on Sunday that it had indefinitely suspended the launch of direct flights between Dubai and Tel Avivi which had been slated to begin on December 6. The launch would have marked the first time the UAE-based airline had ever flown a scheduled service to Israel following the historic normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries last year.
The decision to suspend the route launch was made after Israel banned non-Israelis from entering the country amidst emergency measures introduced to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.
“The airline is committed to launching services to Tel Aviv as soon as the situation allows,” a spokesperson for Emirates said on Sunday after confirming that direct flights would not begin as planned next month.
Countries around the world have reacted with breakneck speed to the risk posed by Omicron – a highly mutated variant of the COVID-19 virus that the World Health Organization has described as “concerning” – by announcing a fresh slew of travel restrictions.
Israel has probably gone further than any other country so far by banning all international arrivals into the country apart from Israeli citizens. Even passengers allowed to enter Israel must take a PCR test on arrival and isolate for three days and until a second test comes back as negative.
Israelis are also banned from leaving the country in order to travel to a list of 50 countries that health officials fear pose a higher risk of Omicron infection.
Omicron could be even more transmissible than the Delta variant and there are fears that it could escape current vaccines. Scientists are urgently working to determine just how much of a threat the variant actually poses and travel restrictions could potentially loosened once results from various studies are published.
It will take around two weeks for further information to become available.
Emirates was due to operate its Boeing 777-300 aircraft for the short daily hop between Dubai and Tel Aviv. Low-cost carrier flydubai already operates flights to Israel, as does Etihad Airways, El Al Israel Airlines and Arkia Airlines.
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.