The Dutch flag carrier KLM said on Wednesday night that it had withdrawn an offer to the government to operate a special repatriation flight to Tel Aviv, saying that it was no longer safe for civilian airliners to operate in Israel.
KLM suspended its normal flights to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport at the weekend but the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached the airline and asked it to operate a special service to get its stranded citizens out of Israel.
The airline initially agreed to supply a plane and crew for the operation and the flight was scheduled to depart on Thursday.
But a spokesperson for KLM said the airline reconsidered its offer after a Dutch military flight experienced issues landing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The two-and-a-half-year-old military-configured Airbus A330 was forced to circle over Israel after Ben Gurion Airport came under reported rocket attack, although the plane eventually landed without incident.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said the aircraft was capable of carrying 267 passengers and that further repatriation flights might be arranged in the coming days.
“Based on the experiences of today’s military flight and the latest information about the situation in Israel, it is currently insufficiently possible for civil aviation to operate a safe flight for passengers and crew,” a spokesperson for KLM explained after announcing it had cancelled Thursday’s planned flight to Israel.
“We made this decision with a heavy heart because we realized that many people were looking forward to a flight back to the Netherlands,” the statement continued.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it thanked KLM for its willingness to help and that a military aircraft had been substituted in its place.
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.