Israel’s Israir To Stop Flying On Saturdays

Israir will stop flying services on Friday nights and most of Saturday in observation of the Sabbath. The changes mean that few Israeli carriers now operate flights on Saturday, reducing domestic connectivity. Let’s find out more about this change.

Israir A320
Israir has joined El Al in canceling all flights on the Sabbath. Photo: Getty Images

No flights

According to Haaretz, Israir’s new owners Rami Levy and Shalom Haim have officially canceled all flights departing on Saturdays. The move comes four months after the two acquired the airline and announced plans to restructure the carrier.

Under the changes, Israir will no longer operate flights (both to Eilat and overseas destinations) during the Sabbath. Flights to these destinations will resume on Saturday night once the observance is complete. Currently, 10% of Israir flights operate during the Sabbath, impacting its schedules and available capacity.

Israir A320
Israir will see its operations reduced by 10% temporarily following the decision to cancel flights on Saturdays. Photo: Davidi Vardi Pikiwiki Israel via Wikimedia Commons

While it seems like a negative change in a business sense, Rami Levy is confident that the move will actually help the airline in the future, citing examples too. In an interview, he said,

“If the airline stops flying on Shabbat, I will increase flights by 30 percent, from people who don’t fly on Shabbat. We can, for example, build hotels in Cyprus, Greece, Dubai and other places for Israelis who don’t fly on Shabbat and want kosher hotels.

“At the end of the day, we’re based in Israel. Most of the population is traditional, and 95 percent of all businesses are closed on Shabbat. For instance, the supermarket chains that do open on Shabbat have limited turnover.”

Not the only one

Notably, Israir is not the first or only airline to stop flying on Sabbath. Indeed, flag carrier El Al stopped operating flights on late Fridays and Saturdays in the late 1980s, leaving a gap in the schedule. More recently, El Al’s new owner also canceled Sabbath flights for subsidiary Sun d’Or in January.

With three airlines now not flying on Saturday, only one Israeli carrier remains: Arkia Israeli Airlines. Arkia will now effectively have a monopoly on domestic routes during the day of religious observance, possibly giving it a boost in the future.

Arkia will be the only airline operating domestic flights during Sabbath from this week onwards. Photo: Airbus

For international operations, foreign airlines will continue operating flights as normal. Interestingly, even foreign airlines have sometimes changed their schedules to work around important religious holidays.

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Bouncing back

While airlines might not serve passengers on Saturday, demand is quickly rising on the other days of the week. Israel’s exceptional vaccine rollout has seen the country fully vaccinated over 55% of the population, with doses open to all. The rollout has allowed the country to ease lockdown measures domestically and restart the battered tourism industry.

The coming months will likely see airlines finally begin the long road to a full recovery, led by a burgeoning domestic market and high demand.

What do you think about Israir’s decision to cancel services on Saturday? Let us know in the comments!