Foreign airlines have been announcing the resumption of flights to Israel starting in May. So far, Low-cost Hungarian carrier Wizz Air, British Airways, and Air Canada flights are available for online booking, but there is still some doubt that the flights will actually happen.
Other airlines, too, are planning to resume their flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), but not until June. These include Air India flights from New Delhi, Alitalia flights from Rome, and airBaltic flights from Riga.
British Airways has already moved back the date
Of the airlines ready to return to Israel in May, British Airways has already started to second guess the idea after moving the original start date back two weeks, from May 2 to May 16.
What seems to be giving airlines like British Airways cold feet is not knowing if the demand will be there when flights resume. Airline passengers are very wary of booking flights, fearing that if at the last minute they get canceled, it will be tough to get the money back. This has been seen with many airlines during the COVID-19 crisis.
Israel still has strict restrictions in place
While airlines are keen to get their grounded aircraft flying again, Israel is still in a state of lockdown despite a slight loosening of the rules over the weekend that now allows hairdressers and takeaway food establishments to open.
The main issue and the one that airlines appear to be jumping the gun over is Israel’s strict coronavirus travel rules.
As of today, April 27, Israel is still barring foreigners from entering the country, while imposing a 14-day quarantine period on all Israeli citizens returning home from abroad.
While reporting on this story, Israeli news website Globes said that it had contacted the Israeli Ministry of Health only to be told that there was no plan to lift the travel restrictions at this time.
The Ministry of Health said, “At the moment, there is no change in the entrance policy to Israel. The issue will be addressed in the future in the event that the fall in morbidity continues.”
Airlines suspended service to Ben Gurion Airport in mid-March after Israel put in place travel restrictions intended to prevent possible COVID-19 carriers from entering the country.
Wizz Air to block one-third of seats
Budapest-based Wizz Air seems to be leading the pack when it comes to restarting flights. According to reports in the Independent, Wizz plans to fly to 15 destinations from its Luton hub starting May 1. From next Friday, passengers will be able to book flights to Bratislava, Belgrade, Budapest, Kosice, Lisbon, Tel Aviv, and eight cities in Romania.
The service to Tel Aviv is penciled in for May 3, with Wizz Air planning three flights per week from the United Kingdom. In a move to ease concerns when flying during the coronavirus pandemic, Wizz Air says it is planning to operate the flights with a third of the seats empty.
Given the current conditions surrounding the coronavirus and a large amount of testing that still needs to be done, governments around the world, including Israel, are afraid to jump the gun for fear of sparking a second wave.
There was even talk in the press yesterday that the United Kingdom is considering a two-week quarantine for all airline passengers entering the country.
For all the reasons just mentioned, I think it is a little soon to be planning a trip to Israel and would not be surprised to see airlines push their start plans further back – perhaps to early June.
What do you think about regularly scheduled flights to Tel Aviv starting in May? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.