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United Airlines is Once Again Delaying the Restart of its Newark to Tel Aviv Service as Security Assessment Continues

United Airlines is Once Again Delaying the Restart of its Newark to Tel Aviv Service as Security Assessment Continues

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United Airlines has been forced to delay the restart of its daily non-stop flight between Newark and Tel Aviv until May 9 at the earliest because the carrier is still assessing the security situation in Israel.

United had been set to resume direct flights between the US and Israel on May 3 and had even been selling tickets for what is expected to be a high demand service.

Passengers booked on United’s flights to and from Israel between May 3 and May 8 will, however, be rebooked on alternative connecting flights, including through Dubai, where codeshare partner flydubai continues to serve Tel Aviv.

One of the biggest problems for United operating flights to Tel Aviv is the fact that its pilots and flight attendants have to stay overnight in Israel. Discussions are believed to be ongoing between United and the two unions that represent aircrew over how the airline can ensure their safety.

In March, United became the first and so far only US airline to resume flights to Israel following the October 7 terror attack and at the time, the unions were satisfied that it was safe for their members to stay in Israel.

On the evening of Saturday, April 13, however, Iran launched a massive coordinated drone and missile attack on Israel, targeting military sites across the country. United immediately canceled its scheduled Saturday night flight from Newark to Tel Aviv but that decision effectively stranded a group of the airline’s aircrew who had to shelter in place as the Iranian attack unfolded.

In the end, the stranded pilots and flight attendants were evacuated out of Israel on other airlines.

One solution to keep aircrew safe and out of the ‘area of conflict’ would be to operate the Newark to Tel Aviv flight with a technical stop in a third country where pilots and flight attendants could swap over.

That technical stop would negate the need to layover crews in Israel, but United is understood to desperately want to avoid a non-direct flight because it would dramatically increase operating costs and remove its competitive advantage of being the only non-stop way to fly between the US and Israel.

In a statement, a spokesperson for United Airlines told us: “Our daily flight from Newark to Tel Aviv remains canceled through May 9 as we complete our safety assessment.”

“We continue to closely monitor the situation and will make decisions on all upcoming flights with a focus on the safety of our customers and crews.”

United is also eyeing a second daily Newark to Tel Aviv which is still expected to go ahead on May 18.

Matt’s take

It’s no secret that United Airlines is really keen to restart its daily service between Newark and Tel Aviv, and if it is to restart, the preference is for it to operate as a non-stop flight without a stopover.

To do so, however, United not only has to be confident that it is safe for aircrew to stay in Israel but that the unions that represent these workers back that assessment.

This decision-making process is complicated, given the fact that American Airlines and Delta have decided to stay clear of Israel for at least the next few months.

Other international airlines are also being pretty cautious with their operations in Israel, with the likes of British Airways operating its flights to Tel Aviv with a technical stopover to avoid crew needing to stay in Israel overnight.

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