Major international air carriers have suspended or reined in flight services to or from Tel Aviv after a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Israel over the weekend, saying they were waiting for safety conditions to improve.
Fighters from the Islamist group killed 700 Israelis and abducted dozens in Saturday’s attacks, the deadliest such incursion in decades, prompting Israel to retaliate by pounding the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.
Israel’s tourism sector, driven by beach- and party-goers in Tel Aviv and historical tours to sites like Jerusalem, is set to take a major hit as flight cancellations pile up. Tourism makes up 3.6% of total employment, according to OECD data.
Tourism bookings were 18% below pre-pandemic levels and had been rising earlier this year, according to travel data firm ForwardKeys, but took a hit on the back of political turmoil, particularly with American tourists.
Regulators including the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and Israel’s aviation authority urged airlines to use caution in the region’s airspace, but stopped short of suspending flights.
Israel’s civil aviation authority asked airlines to “review current security and threat information” amid the conflict, and changed some air traffic routes. It noted that delays were expected and advised airlines to carry extra fuel.
The U.S. airlines normally run direct services from major cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington, DC and Miami.
United said it had run two scheduled flights to the United States from Israel late on Saturday and early on Sunday but then suspended services. Delta representatives said flights this week were canceled and the situation was being monitored.