A British Airways flight to Tel Aviv diverted back to London Heathrow as it was on final approach to Ben Gurion after the airline suddenly suspended operations to Israel on Wednesday afternoon.
British Airways was one of only a handful of airlines to be still operating regularly scheduled flights to Tel Aviv after Hamas launched its assault on Israel at the weekend, but a spokesperson said that the “changing security environment” in the region meant that flights could no longer continue.
To avoid the need to have pilots and cabin crew layover in Tel Aviv, the airline has been operating a daytime return flight, and British Airways flight BA165 had been due to land in Israel at around 3 pm on Wednesday.
The Airbus A350-1000 aircraft had reached Israeli airspace and was on final approach to land when it suddenly diverted away from Tel Aviv after Hamas launched a barrage of rockets towards the city.
The Israel Airport Authority said that the rocket attack did not pose an immediate threat to airliner safety but BA decided to immediately suspend operations to Israel altogether.
Rather than divert to a nearby alternate airport in order to make a second attempt at reaching Tel Aviv, BA165 has diverted back to London, where it is expected to land later today.
British Airways flights to Tel Aviv for the rest of the week have now been cancelled.
“Following the latest assessment of the situation, we’re suspending our flights to and from Tel Aviv,” a spokesperson for the airline confirmed.
“We’re contacting customers booked to travel to or from Tel Aviv to apologise for the inconvenience and offer options including a full refund and rebooking with another airline or with British Airways at a later date,” the statement continued.
“We continue to monitor the situation in the region closely.”
Tel Aviv Airport has come under sporadic rocket attack since Saturday, but British Airways has continued to operate non-stop flights from its Heathrow hub despite the threat. The airline did not elaborate on what had changed for it to now suspend its Tel Aviv service.
Virgin Atlantic has also been operating day return flights to Tel Aviv from London Heathrow but on Wednesday evening, the airline confirmed that it would also suspend services to Israel for at least the next 72 hours.
“The safety of our customers and our teams is our number one priority, always,” the airline said in a statement. “After careful consideration, based on the latest information, we have taken the decision to pause flying to and from Tel Aviv for the next 72 hours.”
“As the dynamic situation evolves, we’ll keep our flying programme under constant review. Our teams will be in contact with any affected customers to discuss their options, which include rebooking to a later date or a full refund. We would advise anyone booked to travel to check their flight status on the website before travelling to the airport.”
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.