Tel Aviv flights resuming on Ryanair for summer – but Israel remains on ‘no-go’ list for tourists

‘I don’t think Tel Aviv will be a significant tourism destination this year’ – Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 26 April 2024 12:13 BST
Flight disruption: Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel
Flight disruption: Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel (Simon Calder)

Low-cost airline Ryanair has confirmed to The Independent that flights will resume in June from around a dozen points in Europe to Tel Aviv.

The airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said the crucial issue is if the authorities at Ben Gurion International Airport reopen the low-cost Terminal 1.

“If they reopen Terminal 1, we will be able to restart our operations,” he said. “We would hope to go back, and would expect to go back, unless the security situation changes.

“I don’t think Tel Aviv will be a significant tourism destination this year, but there’s lots of people who have friends or relatives living and working in Tel Aviv, or living and working in the UK, and they do need to reunite.”

Five years ago, competition between airlines flying from the UK to Israel stepped up with Virgin Atlantic entering the fray – offering long-haul standards on the link between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv.

Sir Richard Branson even took to the street markets in Jaffa to promote the new route.

But since the attack by Hamas on Israel on 7 October 2023, and the subsequent conflict in Gaza, links between the UK and Israel have shrunk drastically.

Virgin Atlantic now says: “We have taken the difficult decision to extend our pause on flying to and from Tel Aviv up to and including 4 September 2024.

“The safety and security of our customers and our people are our number one priority and our flying programme to Israel remains under constant review.”

Earlier this month British Airways said its much-reduced schedule from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv will continue through the summer. At present only a daily short-haul Airbus A320 flies the route – with an additional en route stop at Larnaca in Cyprus, which extends journey times by 80 minutes.

This was due to go nonstop from the start of June, but the plan has now been deferred until July.

BA says: “This extension will mean that some existing bookings from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv between end of May and end of June will no longer meet minimum connection times and will need to re-booked.”

In addition, a planned new overnight service by British Airways on the route between 23 June and 1 September has been axed.

Britain’s biggest budget airline, easyJet, has cancelled all its Israel flights until the start of the aviation winter season at the end of October. An airline spokesperson said: “As a result of the continued evolving situation in Israel, easyJet has now taken the decision to suspend its flights to Tel Aviv for the remainder of the summer season until 27 October.”

Wizz Air is offering regular low-cost flights between London Gatwick and Tel Aviv.

The Israeli airline El Al has continued to fly between London and Tel Aviv throughout the conflict, except when events such as the attack by Iran have closed Ben Gurion airport.

The Foreign Office advises against travel to Israel.

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