U.S. flight attendants who had been stranded in Israel since Saturday when Hamas terrorists launched a surprise deadly attack against the country have now been evacuated, the leader of the world’s largest flight attendant union confirmed on Wednesday.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which represents crew members at United Airlines, as well as several other U.S.-based carriers, said the last known flight attendant stuck in Israel were repatriated early on Wednesday morning.
U.S. airlines suspended flights to Israel on Saturday as the full horror of the terrorist attack became apparent but only after a slew of flights operated by United, American Airlines and Delta landed at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport from Newark, New York JFK and Washington DC.
The return flights were quickly cleared of normal fare-paying passengers, and the planes were used to evacuate airline crews who had either been on duty layovers in Israel or simply visiting the country on vacation.
By Saturday night, the United flight attendant union confirmed that all working crews had been successfully evacuated from Israel after flight attendants caught up in the attack showed “remarkable courageousness” in rushing to Tel Aviv to help in the evacuation.
The union did, however, warn that other crew members who were visiting Israel on leave might not have been able to make it to the airport in time and could still be stranded in Israel.
“Our hearts are broken by the violence consuming Israel and Gaza. We mourn the lives lost, the families torn apart and the trauma and fear that violence has brought to Israelis and Palestinians,” the union said on Wednesday.
“As the news of these unprecedented acts of violence first broke, we worked with our airlines to ensure that crews were brought to safety,” the statement continued. “We strongly condemn terrorism, violence, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and hate in all its forms.”
The union did not say how many flight attendants needed to be evacuated or what routes were used to get them out of Israel.
It is now becoming increasingly difficult to fly to or from Israel as a growing number of airlines suspend operations in the country. On Wednesday, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic became the latest carriers to cancel flights to Tel Aviv following a change in the security assessment.
Along with Israeli flag carrier El Al, Emirates and flydubai are two of the few remaining airlines still operating in the region.
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.