The Airlines That Stayed: El Al’s Survival In Tel Aviv Amidst Terrorist Attacks

Cirium’s Diio Mi shows both scheduled flights and actual performance.  Their data between October 7 and October 19 is interesting for Tel Aviv flying, with most airlines suspending operations.

El Al, which normally operates 22% of flights in and out of Tel Aviv, has completed 97% of its schedule since terrorist attacks began.

United, Delta, and American have ceased flying to Tel Aviv. British Airways operated one flight successfully, before another turned around in the midst of Hamas rocket fire – and the London-based carrier ceased its operations after that.

Airline Scheduled Flights # Cancelled Completed % Cancel
El Al 647 20 96.91% 3.09%
Arkia Israel 190 26 86.32% 13.68%
Turkish 188 104 44.68% 55.32%
Wizz 177 132 25.42% 74.58%
Ryanair 133 103 22.56% 77.44%
EasyJet 89 85 4.49% 95.51%
Israir 77 0 100.00% 0.00%
Pegasus 75 38 49.33% 50.67%
BlueBird 69 9 86.96% 13.04%
Aegean 62 53 14.52% 85.48%

Since the conflict began, El Al has represented 41% of Tel Aviv aircraft movements. Arkia Israel has been 11%, while Turkish (5.5%), Israer (5%), BlueBird (4%), Wizz Air (3%), and both Pegasus and Ryanair (2% each) represent the next largest airlines. El Al’s Boeing 737 and 777 aircraft are equipped with E-MUSIC anti-missile defense systems. Their Boeing 787s are not.

Several airlines tried to keep limited operations going, for instance flying to Tel Aviv in the morning and then right back to avoid overnighting crew there. However flights have declined dramatically, with El Al now representing a majority of the airport’s traffic. Some carriers appear to be taking their cancellations day by day, rather than extending out weeks (or months, as in the case of American). The situation continues to unfold in an uncertain manner, and it’s not clear when carriers will feel comfortable flying.

The U.S. government has chartered planes for Americans (and the State of Florida has, too). Federal government charters carry passengers to nearby destinations like Athens, where major U.S. airlines have added capacity.

Cirium shows that normally about 37,000 passengers per day fly to Israel. The U.S. is by far the largest source of passengers, with around 10% of the total, followed by Greece and Turkey and then major Western European countries (Italy, France, U.K., Germany, Spain). Improved relations between Israel and the U.A.E. have contributed about 1,000 passengers per day.

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. The idea that it is particularly dangerous to fly to TLV today, much less materially more dangerous than it was before 10/7 is totally spurious. Even aircraft lessors and insurers have no objection to their aircraft being flown there. The cancellation of flights is completely a function of pressure from unsympathetic politicians who wield power over their national carriers and pilot and crew labor unions using it as an excuse not to fly for self-serving reasons.

  2. Albeit concerned about the risk that a terrorist’s munition hits a plane and harms people or that there could be the equivalent of friendly-fire as part of a defensive action, I also understand appreciation that some flight service continues.

    Just like during the pandemic when flight schedules thinned out and routes got dropped, it was the remaining airlines providing connectivity that were greatly appreciated by those who had to travel anyway and needed flight service to get them around.

  3. Of course, these days, most passengers are too young to remember seeing the news story about September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines (KAL) flight 007. Whenever I think about flying near war zones and dangerous regions, I think about that. That said, I flew numerous times between Europe and South Asia, and seeing on the airshow video flight map that I was flying over the Middle East and Iraq or Iran and trying to remember from the news which lands were at war with each other and which lands were at war with Americans. I guess that I just place my trust in IATA. Whether the U.S. Department of State is helpful in this regard is another can of worms. (and I flew many leisure transcontinental flights during the Great P@ndemic and that’s a vastly overrated comparison.)

  4. @BigTee – there’s a more recent example: in 2014, Russians downed Malaysian airliner Flight MH17, flying from AMS, I think, to Malaysia. Close to 300 people perished. This was a crime perpetrated by Russians, and those who did it have been named (but of course, Russia will never allow them to be prosecuted).

  5. Iran shot down a UIA flight, and no one ended up convicted for that to my knowledge.

    The US shot down an Iranian passenger jet around the Persian Gulf and I recall no convictions for that either.

    Government employees in the military and other security services way too often and way too easily get away with killing civilians when it’s part and parcel of following orders or while “on duty” and they successfully claim they were following procedures.

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