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United Airlines to Resume Direct Flights to Israel in March

United is the first American airline company to resume flights to Israel since the Hamas attack in October.

United Airlines will start scheduling flights to Israel beginning next month, planning to offer a single daily flight initially and “adjust the schedule as warranted.”

United’s flights to Israel were suspended in October following the Hamas attacks. The airline plans to resume the service in March, with initial flights between Newark and Tel Aviv scheduled for March 2 and 4, the company announced Wednesday. These flights will stop in Munich, Germany, to ensure that “all service providers are ready to support non-stop service to and from Newark.” There will be no departures to Tel Aviv from Newark on March 3 and 5. Daily “nonstop service” to Tel Aviv will resume beginning March 6.

If plans materialize, United will be the first U.S.-based carrier to resume flights to Israel since the Oct. 7 attacks. United said this will be “the first step in restoring vital passenger and cargo service.”

“United conducted a detailed safety analysis in making this decision, including close work with security experts and government officials in the United States and Israel. We also worked closely with the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants to develop the protocols to ensure they are safe and well-informed,” it said.

“United will continue to monitor the situation in Tel Aviv and adjust the schedule as warranted, including changes to the resumed service from New York/Newark announced today.”

Once demand for the flights recovers, United intends to resume a second daily flight between Newark and Tel Aviv beginning “as soon as May.”

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“Before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, United used to have services to Tel Aviv from San Francisco, Washington Dulles, and Chicago O’Hare. For now, the airline will only consider resuming these flights ”beginning in the fall.”

None of the other major U.S. airlines that previously offered flights to Israel have announced resumption of services. In a Jan. 17 update, Delta Airlines said it will continue avoiding flights to Israel through April 30.

Some major European airlines have resumed their Israel travels. Germany’s Lufthansa and its affiliates SWISS and Austrian Airlines kicked off flights to the Middle East nation last month. Air France followed by resuming operations. A few more European carriers have indicated plans to resume services this spring.

According to a Jan. 7 update from the U.S. Department of State, the agency has asked people to “reconsider travel” to Israel due to terrorism and civil unrest.

“Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Violence can occur in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza without warning,” it said.

Airline Traffic and Tourism Impact

United’s decision to resume services to Israel comes as the country’s tourism chamber recently suggested that the nation has become isolated like North Korea, with visitors staying back due to war.

In an interview with the local Maariv newspaper, Yossi Fattal, Director General of the Chamber of Inbound Tourism Organizers, noted that “before the crisis, there were 250 airline companies operating in Israel, and now only 45 companies are operating.”

“Israel is currently completely isolated from the world. Eighty percent of flights today are operated by aircraft from Israel belonging to the [Israeli] El Al company … With regard to aviation, we have become one of the most isolated countries in the world, like North Korea.”

He called the situation an “unfortunate victory for Hamas over Israel.” Mr. Fattal said the country should have created a situation where it was possible to encourage visitors to come to Israel despite the war.

The chamber head noted that both Egypt and Jordan, which are also affected by the ongoing conflict, finance the airlines that bring in tourists.

“Today, Israel does not fund insurance for foreign airlines, only Israeli ones. The insurance premiums required to travel to Israel are enormous.” He expects the tourism sector to take two or three years to recover.

According to an analysis by media outlet Jewish Insider, Israel was set to receive around 3.9 million visitors last year before the Oct. 7 attacks. Prior to the war, 3.01 million tourists had visited the nation, a 12.5 percent increase from the same period in 2022.

However, numbers plunged after the conflict began, with the last quarter of 2023 seeing the arrival of only 180,000 visitors. In January this year, just 58,000 people arrived, far below the 257,400 in January 2023.

“If there is one sector of the economy that is always hurt during these kind of confrontations, it is foreign tourism industry,” said Michel Strawczynski, an economist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to Jewish Insider.

“While internal tourism is now doing quite well now, with Israelis coming back to activities and vacations and normal life, foreign tourism has still not returned.”

A key barrier to tourism was that major American airlines were refusing to schedule flights into Israel, he said. “Some of the airlines have come back but they are not operating at full capacity because this is one of the industries that is fully dependent on the duration of the war.”

During a recent speech at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Israel’s Minister of Tourism Haim Katz encouraged the Christian community to visit Israel.

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