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El Al cuts flights as demand decreases amid rising anti-Israel sentiment

El Al airplane arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport (Photo: Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The demand for flights to certain destinations has decreased among Israelis since the war began on Oct. 7, which has led El Al, Israel's national airline to change its flight schedule to accommodate the new market situation.

“Since the first day of the war, El Al has been closely monitoring changes in customer preferences and adjusting its flight schedule accordingly,” the company announced in a statement earlier this week. “Due to the ongoing security situation, there has been a significant decline in demand from Israelis for tickets to various destinations worldwide.”

In late January, El Al suspended all flights to South Africa, after it accused Israel of committing ‘genocide’ in Gaza and leveling charges against Israel before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“Due to a drop in demand, El Al will suspend its operations on the Johannesburg line starting at the end of March 2024,” the airline said at the time.

There has reportedly also been a drop in demand for flights to Ireland and Morocco.

“Following the announcement of the suspension of the route to Johannesburg in South Africa, the drop in demand has also been evident in other destinations, including Dublin in Ireland and Marrakech in Morocco,” El Al said in its statement.

Direct commercial flights between Israel and Morocco were only launched in July 2021, after the signing of the Abraham Accords.

Ireland has recently taken an anti-Israel position, with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar accusing Israel of “something approaching revenge” in its battle against the Hamas terror organization in Gaza. Varadkar also claimed that the European Union is applying “double standards” and compared the Russia-Ukraine war to the Israel-Hamas war. and in November, Varadkar caused outrage when, upon the release of the nine-year-old hostage Emily Hand from Hamas captivity, he tweeted the good news that she had been “lost and now been found” without mentioning that terrorists had brutally abducted her into Gaza with hundreds of others, and killed her stepmother.

“Suspending these routes allows for expanding operations and adding hundreds of flights to existing and sought-after destinations, alongside exploring opportunities for new destinations,” El Al explained.

Tourism to Israel has nearly stopped following the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas, with almost all foreign airlines suspending flights to Israel.

Throughout January, however, several airlines resumed their flights to Israel, including Air France, Austrian Airlines, Blue Bird (Czech Republic), Bulgaria Air, Lot (Poland), Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, Vueling (Spain), Transavia (France) and TUS (Cyprus).

Tourism and aviation expert Yossi Fisher said that the resumption of the flights was tactical.

“The airlines are taking into account a critical and important element in that there is no incoming tourism (to Israel), and no one knows when it will resume. The decision is tactical and the investment is for the long term, in preparation for Easter and Passover. Besides, if war breaks out in the north tomorrow, within six hours Lufthansa will announce the suspension of all flights to Israel,” Fisher told Globes.

Despite foreign flights resuming and more air travel to and from Israel, in general, El Al does not expect the tourism sector to normalize anytime soon.

“There is a strong negative effect on incoming tourism,” El Al VP for Commercial and Industry Affairs Shlomi Zafrany told Globes last month.

“We estimate that it will continue into 2024 and will affect the activity at Ben-Gurion airport and the routes offered. We do see that there is segmented inbound tourism – family visits, Jewish communities from around the world, new immigrants, but it is likely that we will not see groups of Christian pilgrims coming to Jerusalem," he said.

In my estimation, we will not return to full normality in 2024. Even if all the hostages return tomorrow, the fighting in Gaza ends and a northern front is not opened, we will still be hurt. There will be no full return to routine,” Zafrany added.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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