Air France and other foreign airlines to resume Israel flights

El Al, Arkia and Israir planes at Ben Gurion Airport  credit: Danny Sadeh
El Al, Arkia and Israir planes at Ben Gurion Airport credit: Danny Sadeh

The near monopoly of Israeli carriers El Al, Arkia and Israir is gradually coming to an end.

The war in Gaza has dramatically changed Israel's tourism and aviation sector. After the atrocities of October 7, almost all foreign airlines halted flights to Ben Gurion airport.

Only a handful of airlines including Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, Etihad Airways to Abu Dhabi, flyDubai (Emirates) to Dubai, Uzbekistan Airways to Tashkent, Hainan Airlines to China and Azimuth Airline and Red Wings to Russia, have continued flying to Israel. This left a monopoly on most routes to the Israeli carriers El Al, Arkia and Israir.

But the situation is now changing. Yesterday Lufthansa Group including Lufthansa itself as well as Swiss and Austrian Airlines resumed flights to and from Tel Aviv, and Air France, Bulgaria Air, Lot (Poland), Blue Bird (Czech Republic), Vueling (Spain), Transavia (France) and TUS (Cyprus) have all announced they are resuming flights this month.

Tourism and aviation expert Yossi Fisher says that the resumption of flights by foreign airlines stems from looking ahead to the day after the war. He says, "The airlines are taking into account a critical and important element in that there is no incoming tourism (to Israel), and no one knows when it will resume. The decision is tactical and the investment is for the long term, in preparation for Easter and Passover. Besides, if war breaks out in the north tomorrow, within six hours Lufthansa will announce the suspension of all flights to Israel."

Despite the return of many legacy airlines, there is still no word on when the three popular low-cost airlines EasyJet, Wizz Air and Ryanair will resume flights to Israel. Indeed Wizz Air announced last week that it has canceled all Israel flights through to March. US airlines Delta, American and United have also made no announcement about restarting flights to Israel. Nor are Turkish Airlines and Turkish carrier Pegasus set to return.

Over the past few months the Israeli airlines have served as the almost only bridge between Israel and abroad. In a situation of non-competition like this fares are inevitably influenced. Fisher says, "Business class tickets at certain times on flights to New York can cost as much as $7,000." A return ticket to New York in early February costs between $650 and $900, while a business class ticket is $5,000.

As the foreign airlines gradually return there has been a substantial rise in the number of Israelis traveling abroad in recent weeks. El Al VP commercial and industry affairs Shlomi Zafrany said that among Israelis there is a growing need to "get out and come up for air" by traveling around the world. He says, "There is a certain awakening that is very partial." He adds that the war will change the priorities of customers, and El Al is unsure what demand will be after the war.

"There is a strong negative effect on incoming tourism," says Zafrany. "We estimate that it will continue into 2024 and will affect the activity at Ben Gurion airport and the routes offered. We do see that there is segmented inbound tourism - family visits, Jewish communities from around the world, new immigrants, but it is likely that we will not see groups of Christian pilgrims coming to Jerusalem. In my estimation, we will not return to full normality in 2024. Even if all the hostages return tomorrow, the fighting in Gaza ends and a northern front is not opened, we will still be hurt. There will be no full return to routine."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on January 9, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

El Al, Arkia and Israir planes at Ben Gurion Airport  credit: Danny Sadeh
El Al, Arkia and Israir planes at Ben Gurion Airport credit: Danny Sadeh
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