With many foreign airlines cancelling all flights to Israel, large numbers of Israelis have found themselves trapped abroad and are struggling to find a way back home.
There is a huge strain on Israeli airlines - El Al, Arkia and Israir - which have mobilized for the benefit of the country and laid on extra flights. These airlines have given top priority to Israeli army reservists abroad who have received emergency call-up orders, medical staff, or those needing to return after family members were caught up in the carnage.
El Al says it has been working on social media to present information about flights that have been added, strengthened its service centers, and asks the public to be patient until they receive an answer. El Al stresses that it has reduced fares on flights to the minimum possible, and that prices continue to be updated. El Al updates that there are only a few seats left for flights in the coming days, and that they believe that later in the week there will be more availability.
Israir has added 'rescue' flights to Larnaca, Athens, Corfu and Rome while Arkia has beefed up its bookings center after its website collapsed.
Airlines that have canceled all flights to Israel include easyJet, Wizz Air, Ryanair, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Aegean Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Air Canada, Air India, Air Malta and Etihad Airways. However, many foreign airlines are still continuing to fly to Israel including British Airways, Iberia, Turkish Airways, Emirates, FlyDubai, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Seychelles, Blue Bird, TUS, Bulgaria Air, Hainan Airlines and more.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked Israelis staying abroad to fill out details in an online form on the government website. In the form, they are trying to understand whether they contacted the airline and received a response, whether the person filling out the form received an army callup order due to the situation, etc.
As a result of this chaos, many Israelis stranded abroad at the end of the Simchat Torah holiday with canceled flights have been left to figure out complicated and expensive journeys home through a labyrinth of connection flights.
Iris and her partner and her two children were on vacation in Germany. One of her children is an IDF officer whose soldiers are already on the Gaza border, while her daughter works for defense company Rafael. Iris recounts, "We were on a Ryanair flight from Baden Baden (on Saturday). After 15 minutes they announced that we were going back. We hired a car and drove to Nuremburg to catch a flight to Thessaloniki from where they told us there were flight to Israel. We waited all day for the Arkia flight and when the time came they told us there were no seats on the flight back to Israel." They had already paid about NIS 14,000 to get that far.
Nitzan (44) was on vacation with her 16 year-old daughter in Lisbon. They returned home on a Vueling flight via Barcelona. But when they reached Barcelona they discovered that their flight to Israel had been canceled. "We checked out other possibilities and they offered us options with 3-4 connections if we added a lot of money. We didn't want to rely on international carriers when it was unclear whether the flight would take place," she told "Globes."
Nitzan and her daughter were offered a flight by El Al from Berlin to Israel five days later but decided on an Israir flight from Madrid for NIS 2,000 for each one-way ticket. But just as they were about to fly to Madrid they were told that the Israir flight was canceled. They have now decided to fly to Athens because, "There are more flights to Israel from there and we will b closer to Israel. The airlines are saying that there will be rescue flights from there and they are planning to add flights."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 10, 2023.
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