El Al Extends Flight Suspension To October

Israel’s leading airline, El Al, has extended its flight suspension to September 30th. As such, the airline only hopes to resume passenger flights in October.

El Al Israel Airlines
The Israeli airline put most of its employees on furlough since March. Photo: El Al

On top of extending the flight suspension, its employees’ furlough will also continue. At the moment, 6,080 of El Al’s staff and crew are on unpaid leave.

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Another month without passenger flights

El Al cited reasons such as continued travel restrictions for the extension. Israel still bans most foreign tourists from entering the country.

CEO Gonen Usishkin said travelers could expect flight resumption when several countries have removed isolation requirements.

El Al is waiting for quarantine requirements to end before restarting flights. Photo: El Al

As mentioned in Globes, Usishkin said,

“There is still a significant way to go until the restart of scheduled flights. In order to see people resuming flying we need both countries of origin of a journey and destinations to remove isolation requirements, shorter checking procedures, and no less important high public confidence in flights.”

Currently, El Al continues to operate a few cargo flights.

Israel establishes travel bubbles

Although El Al believes the restrictions are too strict to resume flights, Israel has actually started opening its skies to Israeli travelers. This week, Israel revealed that citizens traveling into the country do not need to go through a mandatory quarantine if they are flying in from 20 specific countries.

According to The Times of Israel, Israel has established “green lanes” with these countries:

Europe: United Kingdom, Slovenia, Georgia, Denmark, Austria, Estonia, Italy, Finland, Latvia, Germany, Hungary, Cyprus, Lithuania, Greece, Croatia, and Bulgaria.

Asia: Hong Kong

North America: Canada

Africa: Rwanda

Oceania: New Zealand

In exchange, Israelis looking to travel Greece, Croatia, or Bulgaria, will also not be met with a 14-day quarantine order. Instead, the travelers need to present a negative coronavirus test upon arrival in Bulgaria and Croatia.

El Al shuffles fleet
Israel’s flag-carrier has formed travel agreements with 20 countries. Photo: Getty Images

For the Mediterranean destination of Greece, there is a limit set on the number of Israelis allowed to enter. At the moment, only 600 Israelis can travel to Greece per week. All travelers must undergo a coronavirus test upon landing, and stay in quarantine until they receive their results – a process that could take up to 48 hours. Further, the citizens are restricted to four cities in Greece – Athens, Corfu, Thessaloniki, and Crete. 

How much longer can El Al survive?

The airline, whose chairman stepped down at the start of the week, has been struggling financially for ages. It had reported a financial loss of $140m even before the pandemic ravaged the aviation industry.

El Al finally received a government bailout in early July, consisting of a loan guarantee and potential sale of shares, amounting to $400m. However, even with the rescue package, how much longer can it survive without flying?

The Israeli government may end up with a 61% stake in the airline. Photo: El Al

The Israeli airline has shut its commercial services since March 2020, except for cargo flights. The continued suspension will mean El Al is not operating any passenger flights for seven months.

Potential buyers are looking to take control of El Al, such as yeshiva student Eli Rosenberg who is looking to secure a 45% stake in the airline.

The airline has until the end of this month to sell shares. If that does not pan out, the airline may become nationalized after the Israeli government buys all unsold shares.

Do you think El Al should have extended its flight suspension? Let us know in the comments.