| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

Israeli airlines add more flights to bring reservists home

Israeli airlines El Al, Israir and Arkia added more flights on Tuesday to bring back reservists, according to their websites and Israel’s airports authority, though the prospect of more conflict also stoked sector worries about staff shortages.

The flights come after Israel said on Monday it had called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and warned residents of Palestinian enclave Gaza to evacuate in a sign it could be planning a ground assault in response to Palestinian militant group Hamas’ unprecedented weekend attack.

While many major airlines have cancelled flights to and from Israel, domestic carriers have looked to ramp up capacity, at least in coming days. Many Israelis were travelling abroad the last week for a Jewish holiday.

On its website, Israir Airlines (ISRG.TA) said it was offering flights from Larnaca in Turkey, Corfu in Greece and Batumi in Georgia to help bring Israelis back to the country.

Arkia also offered flights from the Greek capital Athens to Eilat in southern Israel and Marrakesh in Morocco to Tel Aviv, among others.

Flag carrier El Al (ELAL.TA) added a flight from Athens on Tuesday. El Al added that, while it wasn’t offering free flights for reservists, it was trying to keep prices affordable. Reservists flying from the United States are charged $900, flights from Bangkok cost $650, while flights under four hours from Europe cost $300, a spokesperson said.

“So far, we have little notification of flight cancellations from airlines but major airlines are offering flexibility on ticket conditions to postpone departures,” said Emilie Dumont, Managing Director of Digitrips, a French-based online travel companies group. “We expect more airline cancellations to be disclosed later this week.”

Israir said its flight schedule could be reduced in coming days as its foreign crews were asked to leave the country while some Israeli staff were also recruited to fight.

Flights evacuating foreigners were also leaving Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.

Iceland said on Monday night it had flown out 126 Icelanders, five Faroese, four Norwegians and 12 Germans that had been stranded in Israel from Amman, Jordan, on a government-sponsored plane.

The Israeli airports authority said 67,000 passengers were expected to travel through Ben Gurion on Tuesday, compared to an average of 80,000 under normal circumstances.

The authority added that it would restrict flights to Ben Gurion airport’s Terminal 3 due to security concerns.

“All our clients who planned to depart this week have cancelled their trip,” said Dumont. The Union of Tour Operating companies (SETO), a French organization, recommended this weekend to cancel or postpone all departures to Israel until Oct 13th, she said.

  • Reuters