As Airlines Cancel Flights For Safety, El Al Brings Reservists Home To Defend Israel

Airlines around the world are cancelling flights in and out of Tel Aviv. Hamas has declared Ben Gurion airport a target for their attacks.

Normally about 37,000 passengers fly into the airport per day according to data from Cirium’s Diio Mi. The U.S. sends the most passengers, though second and third place are nearby Greece and Turkey who combine to send more passengers than the U.S. does.

While airlines worldwide are cancelling flights out of caution – even if conditions appear okay at departure, it’s unclear what the situation will be on arrival. And it’s also unclear whether the airline will be able to safely return its aircraft and crew. United operated a 14 hour flight to nowhere after its San Francisco – Tel Aviv service turned around over Greenland.

El Al, however, is operating as much of its schedule as possible. According to Cirium data, the Israeli airline accounts for 22% of the airport’s operations. They aren’t just sending passengers out of the country to safety. They are bringing Israeli reservists back to the country to join the 300,000 that have been called up. That’s more than 3% of Israel’s population mobilized on top of existing armed forces.

Both United Airlines and American Airlines operated extra flights to evacuate crew, other employees in Israel, and non-revenue travelers.

I’d add that the pilots and crew making these flights possible are heroes, and in the case of American’s pilots worked to rescue their colleagues against the advice of their own union.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Israel has called up about or over 300,000 military reservists in the biggest and most rapid call up that I can recall the country having. A lot of them are dual-citizens and so there is an international/internationalization element to such a situation. Fewer and fewer developed countries prohibit or enforce prohibitions on their own citizens serving in the military or other countries in which they have citizenship; and more and more developed countries have opened the doors to dual-citizenship and thus we get more far-flung international aspects to even regional military/militant conflicts than used to be the case.when dual-citizenship and service in foreign militaries was more frowned upon.

    Hamas may think of TLV airport being to Israel what Israel thought of BEY airport being to Hezbollah, a military/militant support structure conduit but Hamas is aiming to terrorize and disrupt and disturb the civilian public and Israel’s civil economy.too. And so TLV will unfortunately be a risk for its users given how vilely indiscriminate Hamas is.

  2. Just in case anyone is trying to help friends and family get home, according to Google Flights, there are still numerous scheduled flights to Europe later this week, most involving Royal Jordanian. And AMM is close, though driving there is not easy, no rental cars across the border and you’ll need a visa in advance. It’s easier to fly, if they’re operating. Royal Jordanian is a OneWorld partner, so those who have tickets on OneWorld airlines might see if they can switch to them. Most of the flights I see still operating seem to be RJ to AMM, then to LHR, from LHR to the US is BA.

    Makes me wonder if we’re going to see a land-bridge to AMM to get out who wants to get out.

    Maybe you can arrange a tour to Petra, then on to Amman?

    There do appear to be a few flights out of Aqaba, AQJ, but you’d have to get all the way to Eilat, which is a questionable decision, but the border crossing is vert short between the two. Still the visa problem, but it’s viable. Turkish is flying to IST.

  3. The foreign citizens who are currently within Israeli territory will surely get home safely. Logistics will be a pain, but assuming they are in the TLV or Jerusalem metro areas, they are not in any imminent mortal danger from Hamas.

    It’s the foreign nationals who are currently hostages in Gaza that are in trouble. If those countries want any chance of their citizens making it home alive, now would be a very wise time for the US, Germany and other affected countries to let Iran (not Hamas, since they don’t care about geopolitics, only about dead Jews) know very clearly that killing their citizens is an attack on their country, not just Israel

  4. El At is equipped with missile defense equipment. No other airline has this. Also, insurance policies most likely won’t cover aircraft damaged or destroyed flying into a known declared war zone

  5. “I hope israel ends the arab problem in their lands once and for all”

    If there is any silver lining today relative to other Israel wars for it’s very survival such as ’73 or ’48, it’s that today there are a non-zero number of Arab nations that have shown at least some openness to living peacefully in the same region as a Jewish state.

    I think the best case scenario anyone who cares about minimizing innocent people dying for having the wrong religious beliefs or for being stuck in the wrong terrorist-controlled area is for a solution that involves UAE, or another “peaceful” (relative to the current barbarians) country taking over Gaza and Palestinian controlled land in Israel….. and then Israel working with them to figure out a strategy for long term side-by-side coexistence.

    Arab-Israeli peace is more realistic today than at any point in Israel’s history. Just not until the party on the other side of the negotiating table is someone other than Hamas or the PA

  6. First, we can’t go on holiday in Russia, and Asian flights are a couple hours longer. Now, all Israeli holidays are off. The airport destinations are shrinking, not expanding! Disgusting. It’s like Cold War and Raid on Entebbe ’70’s all over again. Disgusting. This is not what return to the Golden Age of Travel means. Kudos to flight staff for all their efforts in this.

  7. Poor bigtees travel utopia is disrupted by thousands of people being killed by hamas animals.

    Tone deaf doesn’t even approach.

  8. Most countries are using military aircraft to evacuate their respective citizens. However, Switzerland used a chartered Swiss airliner and I believe one of the Balkan states chartered a flag carrier for evacuation purposes.
    I haven’t heard news of US citizen evacuations.

  9. Israel denied Thailand’s request to send in Thai military flights to evacuate Thai nationals in Israel. There are something on the order of 20k or 30k Thai nationals in Israel.

    About evacuating people when some rockets and other explosive projectiles may still be flying, that can at times cause people to move about and be more at risk in the open than if they just stayed put in a mammad until there is a clear and prolonged lull in hostilities that can be more confidently used. And evacuation flights aren’t cheap, and some countries hit their evacuated citizens with the bill for the evacuation flights.

  10. “I hope israel ends the arab problem in their lands once and for all”

    Sorry but
    Israel is located in the Southern Levant, a region known historically as Canaan, the Land of Israel, Palestine and the Holy Land.

    Palestine is PART of Israel yet they like blacks in America, women in Arab countries are treated as 3rd class non-citizens.

    Upon its independence, Israel became almost immediately embroiled in conflict with its five neighboring Arab states, whose armies began entering the area of the former Mandatory Palestine on 15 May, starting the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

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