The coming weeks were supposed to be one of the busiest phases for travel from UAE to Israel. After last weekend's flaring up of the Israel-Gaza crisis, there has been a wave of cancellations on the bookings. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: UAE airlines are taking different approaches on their flights to Israel, while many who had booked seats have postponed or cancelled their plans, according to travel industry sources. The cancellations come just as business-related trips between the countries were heading into peak demand phase.

International carriers had severely curtailed their services since last weekend, given the gravity of the developing situation in Israel and Gaza. (While curtailing the number of flights, some international carriers had in fact repatriated their nationals in the last few days.)

“Many clients cancelled their planned trips to Israel until further notice,” said Sapna Aidasani, Marketing Director at Pluto Travels “Israel had been growing in popularity as a destination, especially among UAE business travellers.

“Many travellers opt for Tel Aviv as a transit hub to northern Europe, say to Finland and Norway. These plans have been redirected or cancelled due to the current situation. Travellers are adopting a wait and watch until tensions de-escalate.”

Etihad is continuing to monitor the situation and maintains close contact with the authorities and security intelligence providers on an hour-by-hour basis.

- Statement from Etihad Airways

Airlines issue statements

UAE flag carrier Etihad Airways had cancelled flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv since October 8, but resumed scheduled passenger and cargo services on Wednesday October 11.

flydubai had to cancel two flights - FZ 1625/1626 and FZ 1807/1808 - on Saturday (October 7) but resumed operations next day. "From October 13, flydubai will consolidate its flight schedule to Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) and will operate two daily flights FZ 1549/1550 and FZ 1209/1210," an airline spokesperson said in a statement.

The airline was operating four daily to Tel Aviv. "We continue to monitor the situation closely and we're liaising with the relevant authorities regarding the ongoing developments," the statement added. Passengers affected by the revised flight schedule are advised to call the flydubai Contact Centre in Dubai.

Dubai's Emirates has announced the suspension of all fights to Tel Aviv until October 20, the airline announced Thursday. "Our last flight operation will be EK932 departing Tel Aviv to Dubai on October 12," said the airline.

Emirates said, "We are closely monitoring the situation in Israel and are in close contact with the relevant authorities."

Customers with onward connections to Tel Aviv will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin until further notice either, explained Emirates.

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The UAE initiated direct flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport following the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020.

According to Ranjit Peter, Business Head Air MEA at TBO.com, “There is an anticipation of potential flight disruptions, temporary suspensions, or reroutes. Direct flights between the UAE and Israel were significant for both leisure and business purposes.”

Dubai has welcomed 209,000 visitors from Israel, making it the 10th largest source market for inbound tourism until summer 2023. This represents a significant increase of 71 per cent compared to same period in 2022, according to Dubai Tourism. For the same period, in Abu Dhabi, Israel became the 11th-largest source market, with 9,000 checking into its hotels.

Tour groups put plans on hold

UAE travel agencies that provide guided tour packages to Israel have experienced a wave of cancellations with no set date for resumption. One Dubai-based travel agent said that the period from June to November is typically a peak travel season to Israel.

“We had secured good bookings for Tel Aviv this summer, particularly from small to medium-sized tour groups,” he said. “However, nearly all the tour groups scheduled for this month have decided to cancel their trips.”

Flight cancellations - more clarity after Oct. 14

International carriers such as Air India, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, and several US carriers have suspended operations. German carrier Lufthansa has announced the suspension of all flights to and from Israel until October 14, with further scheduling decisions to be made the following week. Air France also suspended its services to Tel Aviv indefinitely.

Air India temporarily suspended flights to Tel Aviv until October 14 for passenger and crew safety. British Airways cancelled one flight to Tel Aviv on October 9 and implemented a flexible booking policy for travellers

Several US carriers, including Delta and American Airlines, suspended operations, offering rebooking options for affected passengers. United Airlines also suspended Tel Aviv operations, with one flight from San Francisco turning back mid-route.

Israel's National Security Council has also advised Israelis to reconsider planned trips abroad due to the current situation.