Israel’s El Al To Suspend Almost All Routes

Israel’s national flag carrier El Al has announced that following recent additional travel restrictions introduced by the Israeli government, it will stop flying most of its routes from March 15th. Despite the overwhelming number of service suspensions, there will be a short list of exceptions.

El Al to stop flying to many destinations due to the coronavirus. Photo; Aero Icarus Wikimedia Commons

Exceptions will be flights from Tel Aviv to the following cities:

  • Toronto
  • New York
  • London
  • Paris
  • Johannesburg.

The Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport-based airline normally operates regular flights to 40 destinations around the world.

These latest moves come as the airline combats a worldwide decline in air traffic due to the coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic now has most of Europe on lockdown following the spread of the virus.

Only two European destinations remain

Except for London and Paris, all other flights to European destinations would cease from Sunday. This includes flights to Mumbai and Boston. Flights to Moscow and San Francisco would cease on Monday with Los Angeles and Miami being taken off the schedule on Wednesday.

When talking about the flight suspensions, El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin is quoted by Business Traveller as saying:

“We’re following the situation and out of national responsibility, we’ll maintain regular air connections with New York, Newark, Toronto, London, Paris, and Johannesburg for the purpose of transporting passengers and cargo.

“After evaluating the latest situation, El Al has had to gradually suspend its operations to most of its destinations as of Sunday evening, March 15.

“The company is closely monitoring the requirements and guidelines of the Ministry of Health and is fully prepared to resume operations to various destinations around the world, according to operational and commercial needs very quickly.”

80% of El Al staff will be put on unpaid leave

Together with the flight suspensions, El Al also said that it would be putting 4,000 staff which is 80% of the airlines’ workforce on unpaid leave.

4,000 El Al staff will be put on unpaid leave. Photo: Getty Images

Reports in the Israeli media citing internal memos say the cuts will commence this coming week and include every department in the airline. Before these latest cost-saving moves, El Al had already stopped all hiring and cut employee salaries.

To combat declining passenger numbers, El Al had already canceled many of its flights. However, it has now decided that more stringent moves are necessary following the governments’ new quarantine measures.

Self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Israel

Starting last Thursday all Israeli citizens and foreigners arriving in the country had to prove that they were able to self-quarantine in a private home for at least 14 days.

When talking about the stringent measures to the media, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted by the Times of Israel as saying:

“After very complicated deliberations, we’ve reached a decision. Whoever arrives from abroad will enter an isolation period of 14 days. This is a difficult decision but is essential for preserving the health of the public, and public health comes before everything. This decision will be in effect for two weeks, and in parallel, we are also adopting decisions to protect the economy of Israel.”

Representatives of Israel’s tourism industry have called the measures a death blow with both airports and hotels now resembling ghost towns due to a lack of visitors.

The Israeli government will help El Al. Photo: Getty Images

El Al is not alone as it struggles to cope with the fallout from the coronavirus. However, given that it is almost essential for the State of Israel to have an international airline, we can almost certainly expect to see help from the government. Other airlines around the world may not be so fortunate.