Lufthansa Returns to Israel, When Will U.S. and Other Major Airlines Follow?

Last week Lufthansa made history. Weeks ahead of its major European rivals, the airline resumed scheduled services to Israel. As of last Monday, the German carrier is offering four weekly flights between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv and three from Munich. The routes mark the first time the company has operated to the country since the start of the Israel-Gaza war in early October.

The multi-brand model of the Lufthansa Group means the impact of this network decision stretches far beyond Germany. Austrian Airlines for example is now flying up eight times a week from Vienna to Tel Aviv, while Swiss is offering up to five weekly departures from its Zurich hub. Even though this represents just 30 percent of the regular schedule, the flights offer great connection opportunities for U.S. travelers.

While Lufthansa acknowledges that “possible flight schedule adjustments must be expected due to changing conditions,” it’s the first major airline to return to Tel Aviv but certainly not the last. With network decisions constantly evolving, Skift has rounded up the latest information available from some of the biggest airlines to find out when they plan to resume their flights to and from Israel:

Air France: January 24

The French flag carrier is following in the footsteps of Lufthansa with a return to Israel later this month. From January 24, the SkyTeam alliance member will operate three weekly flights between Paris Charles de Gaulle and Tel Aviv. Unlike its German competitor, Air France is flying widebody jets for its revived route, with the Airbus A350-900 rostered. Despite being part of the same airline group, KLM has decided to take a different approach from Air France. A spokesperson for the Dutch airline told Skift that the airline will not fly to Tel Aviv until further notice.

Ryanair: February 1

The Dublin-based budget airline is currently due to return to Tel Aviv from the start of February. Ryanair and its subsidiaries such as Buzz, will resume flying from the Israeli city to destinations including Cyprus, Greece, and Bulgaria. True to form, the company is offering some eye-catching headline fares to stimulate demand for the revived routes, with one-way tickets between Tel Aviv and Warsaw currently on sale for as little as €14.99 ($16.40).

Turkish Airlines: February 16

Türkiye’s national carrier has flights on sale from February 16, with a twice-daily service linking its Istanbul home and hub with Tel Aviv. These will typically be operated by the single-aisle Airbus A320, although could be upgraded as demand improves. Meanwhile, its AnadoluJet subsidiary looks set to return to Israel on March 1, with a single daily service from Istanbul’s secondary airport at Sabiha Gökçen. Nonstop routes from the Turkish cities of Dalaman and Antalya remain suspended until further notice. 

easyJet: March 1

Before the start of the conflict, the European low-cost carrier was a major player in the Israeli market with dozens of weekly frequencies linking Tel Aviv with the likes of Berlin, Manchester, Paris, and Milan. EasyJet now looks to be the first British airline to resume its scheduled flying program to the country, with flights on sale from March 1. A spokesperson confirmed to Skift that while services are available to book from the start of March, the company “continues to keep any restart under review.”

Wizz Air: March 1

Wizz Air’s distinctive pink and purple planes look set to return to Tel Aviv from the start of March, with routes to cities such as London, Rome, and Budapest all currently on sale. March 1 also appears to be the date when its Wizz Air Abu Dhabi subsidiary restarts flights to and from the United Arab Emirates. A Wizz Air spokesperson told Skift that “routes and destinations from Tel Aviv are yet to be finalized”, but confirmed they will not be returning before March. 

United Airlines: March 15?

Before the start of the war, United jets were a frequent sight at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, with two daily flights linking the Israeli city with the carrier’s Newark hub. A search of the United website shows that the Tel Aviv route is bookable from March 15, with a nonstop double-daily service from Newark operated by its Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners. Despite this, when asked by Skift for an update on a possible resumption, a United spokesperson said: “Our Tel Aviv flights will remain suspended until conditions allow them to resume.”

Virgin Atlantic: March 17

Virgin Atlantic is due to restart its flying program to and from Israel on March 17. From this date, the British airline will resume its once-daily VS453/4 service linking London Heathrow with Tel Aviv using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. However, the carrier confirmed to Skift that its second daily summer seasonal service to Tel Aviv (Flight VS457 and VS458) is currently not scheduled to operate this year. A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “The situation remains dynamic, so we’ll keep our flying program under constant review”. 

Passengers booked on Virgin’s Tel Aviv services which are due to operate and want to amend flight dates or no longer wish to travel can request a refund or rebook for another travel date with no additional fees until March 31, 2024. Full details can be found here. 

Delta Air Lines: March 29

Delta has confirmed to Skift that its service between New York JFK and Tel Aviv is currently due to resume from March 29. The daily flight will be operated by the Airbus A330-900neo – the newest long-haul plane in the Delta fleet. Until this time, the Delta website offers alternative nonstop options with partner El Al, and from mid-March, connections in London with fellow SkyTeam alliance member Virgin Atlantic. 

British Airways: March 31

British Airways has told Skift that following its latest assessment, flights to and from Tel Aviv will be suspended up to and including March 30. From March 31, the airline is offering a double-daily service between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv, operated by its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. If realized, BA’s resumption will mean all three major UK airlines will have restarted their Tel Aviv services by the end of March.

Emirates: April 1

A relative newcomer to the Israeli market, Emirates only started flying between Dubai and Tel Aviv in June 2022. This followed an improvement in diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE. However, just over a year later, the carrier canceled the route following the start of the war. This was in contrast with fellow UAE carriers Etihad Airways and flydubai who have continued to operate throughout the conflict.

Emirates now appears to be restarting its link to Tel Aviv with flights available to book from April 1. It’ll be a phased re-entry to the market, with just one daily flight instead of the previous two, operated by the Boeing 777-300ER.

American Airlines: April 4?

American Airlines has removed all flights to and from Tel Aviv from sale until April 4. After this date, the oneworld alliance carrier has options to book aboard its daily service between New York JFK and Tel Aviv. This is usually operated by the Boeing 777-200. AA says customers who bought tickets before October 6, 2023, and are scheduled to travel before March 29, 2024, are eligible for a fee-free change of flights if they fly before the end of April. Full terms and conditions can be found on the AA travel alert website.

Air Canada: April 8?

Air Canada says it will “resume operations to Tel Aviv as soon as the situation stabilizes.” Before the start of the conflict, the airline flew to Israel from two major Canadian hubs. At the time of writing, the earliest date available to book Toronto-Tel Aviv is April 8, while Montreal-Tel Aviv is May 1. Both routes are rostered with Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. 

In line with many other major carriers, Air Canada is offering passengers who were due to fly before February 29, 2024 options to change dates free of charge to another between now and April 30, 2024 subject to availability. Connections with Star Alliance partners such as Lufthansa are also available. 

Have Any Airlines Kept Flying Throughout?

Although the security situation in and around Israeli airspace deteriorated following the October attacks, authorities continued to allow commercial flights at the airline’s discretion. Along with flag carrier El Al, local firms Arkia Israeli Airlines and Israir Airlines have maintained most of their international scheduled network during the war. A small band of international airlines have also kept flying including Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi and Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa.

The above dates and information are correct as of January 15, 2024, however, travelers are advised to check with their airline for the latest details and monitor government advice.

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