As COVID-19 continues to ravage countries around the world, Israeli carrier El Al has decided that it will be extending the suspension of its scheduled passenger operations. With all of its regular commercial flights already grounded, the suspension will continue through the entire month of April, to at least 2 May 2020.
After 2 May
Assuming things improve over the course of the month, El Al has plans to resume service starting on 3 May. In fact, the airline states that during 3-30 May, it will operate flights out of its hub in Tel Aviv to the following destinations:
- New York
- Los Angeles
- Hong Kong
“The schedule will be updated on the systems and are subject to change. During this period flights to additional destinations may be added as required,” the airline says on its website.
Meanwhile, the carrier continues to operate rescue and cargo flights and anything else deemed ‘essential’.
Other completely grounded airlines
There are a handful of airlines that have completely shut down their passenger operations due to COVID-19. According to The Points Guy, Brussels Airlines is shut down through 19 April. The decision has been in place since 21 March.
Furthermore, fellow European operator and Lufthansa Group member, Austrian Airlines is doing the same. Its operations will not resume until at least mid-April. In Africa, Rwanda’s RwandAir is also completely shut down in an attempt to limit the spread of the disease.
Is it safe to resume in May?
The multi-billion-dollar question is “how long will this last for?” It’s a question the media have been asking health officials repeatedly. The answer that has been most often given is that “nobody knows”. As Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer says, you won’t know that you’ve reached the peak until after you are through the worst and numbers are in decline.
Even then, many health officials worry about subsequent waves of outbreaks once regions make attempts to resume some sense of normalcy. In fact, China saw a small uptick in infections when it relaxed its travel restrictions. The country is now restricting foreigners from entering its borders.
Therefore, the decision by El Al to resume flights in May poses a certain level of risk. However, airlines need to fix schedules with enough advance notice for passengers to plan ahead and make bookings.
The problem for El Al is that due to the current situation, the airline’s customer service call center is closed as of April 1, 2020. This is worrying as so many airlines force customers to call in order to make specific changes to their bookings. Those booking with the airline should proceed with caution and keep this in mind as airline support may not be fully available.
It’s been a rough ride for airlines everywhere. Hopefully, May is not too optimistic a goal for the airline to resume some of its operations on the path towards normalcy. However, it is still too early to tell whether or not that goal is obtainable.
Would you feel safe booking a flight in May? Or would you prefer to wait even longer? Let us know in the comments.