MIAMI – Today, the Israeli Government put in immediate effect the halt of all commercial flights to/from the country until the end of the month.

On the night of January 25, Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) shuttered to almost all flights due to great concerns over virus mutations. Even though the Jewish country leads the world in vaccinating its population against the coronavirus, the government decided to apply strict measures under evidence that link new infections with international travelers.  

For the first time since the pandemic started, Israel prevented its own citizens from entering the country as all commercial flights are now banned from using Israeli aerospace or land at TLV, the country’s only international airport. Even immigrants who scheduled to return, under Israel’s repatriation program (Law of Return), will have to wait until the end of January.

Exceptions could only apply for aircraft flying over Israeli aerospace without landing, cargo flights, and emergency aircraft. At the same time, all scheduled departures from TLV will be canceled with the only exclusion of private planes carrying passengers for medical purposes, essential work, the movement to their residence, and funerals of close relatives. 

The new variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, seems to play a significant role in the establishment of such measures when at the same time the country’s health system has reached significant hospital capacity. In combination with a massive vaccination program, officials stated that a strict lockdown can buy them some time and finally prevent the spread of the virus, which cost 1,000 fatalities in January.

Gulf Air A9C-FE Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Ervin Eslami/Airways

Historic Agreement Results on Hold

At the same time, several strategic moves by the country’s flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines (LY) need also to be on hold. Last month, LY signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Gulf Air (GF), Bahrain flag carrier, and set to establish a collaboration between the two nations.

This action followed a similar agreement with Etihad Airways (EY), in order to create connections between flights in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Moreover, last November Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to embark on diplomatic relations for economic cooperation and tourist growth. Under this agreement, Dubai state-owned FlyDubai (FZ) and Emirates (EK) launched under a codeshare agreement direct flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv, linking these two financial capitals.    

Featured image: El Al 4X-ECA Boeing 777-258(ER). Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways