On Monday I was corresponding with a long-time reader who was trying to get a family member out of Russia where they’d gone for a funeral and into Israel. Not easy! They’d gone to Russia for a funeral. My suggestion was that they fly to Istanbul. Turkish was still flying to Russia, is close to Israel, and they usually run as many as a dozen flights a day between Istanbul and Tel Aviv.
Things are rapidly changing and Turkish has now suspended service. However I explained that my reason for recommending Istanbul was also that while many airlines – including all 3 U.S. airlines serving Israel – have ceased flying due to the risk, El Al which normally operates 22% of flights in and out of Tel Aviv and is still flying and serves Istanbul.
The Israeli military has called up 360,000 reservists (huge for a country of 9.4 million people) and many of them are abroad trying to reach Israel to join in protecting their home. El Al is flying them there. And El Al is unique because their planes are equipped with an anti-missile system: Commercial Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure (C-MUSIC) system which uses laser technology to confuse incoming missiles, causing them to veer off course and detonate at a safe distance from the aircraft. It:
- Detects the threat using infrared sensors.
- Tracks the incoming missile.
- Fires a laser at the missile, confusing its guidance system and causing it to deviate from its intended path.
- Update: this system is on El Al Boeing 737s (which operate regional routes like Istanbul) and 777s (which are being retired) but has not been confirmed to be on their 787s.
If you’re in Israel right now, you might be trying to get out. You might be trying to get out right away. Many airlines are extending extreme flexibility with their purchased tickets. But not all! Qantas, which has a deep partnership with Emirates, is reportedly quoting passengers thousands of dollars to rebook their flights.
- People purchased travel on Emirates through Qantas
- Qantas is offering refunds and isn’t charging change fees but they appear to be charging the difference in fare and that’s often substantial
- While customers booked directly through Emirates are being permitted to change their travel plans for free
[A]ll customers can get a refund if they no longer wish to fly or we will waive the change fees if you want to move flights”.
“We offered assistance for Australians in Israel and have spoken with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about it.”
“Some consumers have made reservations on Qantas.com for flights to and from Israel on one of our partner airlines”.
“Clients who are trying to depart Tel Aviv but are experiencing flight issues can contact us to discuss alternatives.”
It’s very much on-current-brand for Qantas to quote charges of several thousand dollars to assist customers in exiting a war zone when their partner operating the flight is imposing no such charges.
The reader trying to get a family member into Israel asked where to book the flights, and wondered if Expedia was a good idea? NO!!!
- Don’t book through an online travel agency website unless there is a very compelling reason to do so, and even then realize that if travel plans go awry customer service is likely to be a mess.
- And never book a codeshare flight if you can avoid it. That adds complexity and puts another layer of bureaucracy between you and the actual airline operating your flight.
Sometimes there’s no avoiding it, and you need to put more than one airline in the same reservation. That’s supposed to be the point of airline alliances, and joint ventures are supposed to work even better, though in practice they rarely do.
And sometimes it’s cheaper to book a codeshare or partner itinerary. Just know that this savings isn’t ‘free’ but rather comes at a customer service cost if there’s a schedule change or if your plans change. Or if Hamas decides to invade Israel from Gaza in order to provoke Israel so that the images of Palestinians dying will drive a wedge between Israel and other governments in the Mideast, and so the U.S. might get drawn into the conflict.
The world is crazy enough. For instance today the United States formally recognized the military takeover of Niger as a coup. You don’t want to complicate it even further by booking codeshare flights or designating Expedia as your travel agent if you can possibly avoid doing so.
And if you’re an American trying to get out of Israel, sign up with the State Department so you’ll be notified in case the U.S. decides to run any evacuation flights, as Poland appears to be doing. And if not American, register with your country’s embassy as well.