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Airlines have halted service to Tel Aviv as tensions in the Middle East escalate due to Iran’s drone attack on Israel.

Airlines changed routes and canceled flights in response to an escalation in tensions between Israel and Iran on Saturday.

Iran launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel Saturday night. The widely anticipated attack was seen as retaliation after an airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Syria last week.

In addition to diversions and cancellations into Tel Aviv, airspace over Israel, Iran, Iraq and Jordan was either closed or heavily controlled from Saturday evening until Sunday morning. Some restrictions remain in place.

Daniel Hagari, the spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, said Saturday night that most of the missiles had been intercepted, and that the strikes caused minor damage, according to a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

While Iran’s retaliation against Israel was quick and caused minimal damage, it’s unclear what the next phase of the conflict will be.

Airlines Cancel Flights

American Airlines canceled its flights between Philadelphia and Doha, Qatar on Saturday due to the attacks.

Israeli national carrier El Al said on Saturday it was canceling more than a dozen flights from Tel Aviv due to the situation.

United Airlines was among the major carriers to cancel its service to Tel Aviv on Saturday. The U.S. carrier later said it was also canceling its Saturday flight to Amman, Jordan. It is currently not planning to cancel its Sunday service to Tel Aviv.

“We have canceled Saturday’s planned flight from Newark to Tel Aviv and its associated return flight due to restrictions on Israeli airspace,” a United spokesperson said. “We are closely monitoring the situation and will make decisions on upcoming flights with a focus on the safety of our customers and crews.”

EasyJet has also cancelled Tel Aviv services, with flights currently suspended until Tuesday. “Due to the evolving situation in Israel, easyJet has taken the decision to pause operations to and from Tel Aviv on the 14th and 15th April. The safety and security of our passengers and crew is always easyJet’s highest priority,” it said in a statement.

Etihad reported changes to its routes: “Following notification of the closure of airspace over Israel, Jordan and Iraq, Etihad is re-routing a number of its European and North American flights on Sunday 14 April to overfly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This is likely to cause some disruption and delay to a number of flights over the course of the day.”

As of Saturday night, Etihad said it decided to cancel flights to Tel Aviv and Amman on Sunday. Etihad said it would resume service to Tel Aviv and Amman on Monday as airspace over Israel and Jordan reopened.

Swiss said it would suspend its “flight operations to and from Tel Aviv until further notice….as many airspaces are closed due to the current situation, we are currently assessing to what extent flights that have already taken off need to be diverted.” Swiss added: “Following Iran’s attack against Israeli territory, all SWISS aircraft are avoiding the airspaces of Iran, Iraq and Israel.”

Due to the attacks, Swiss said it would suspend flights to Beirut up to and including April 18. The carrier said it would continue avoiding Iranian airspace, adding an additional 90 minutes for flights between Zurich and Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Delhi and Mumbai.

Flydubai also reported disruptions. “Some of our flights have been impacted by the temporary closure of a number of airspaces in the region,” said a Flydubai spokesperson. “We continue to closely monitor the situation and will make any amendments to our schedule accordingly.”

Delta Air Lines said last month that it will resume service to Israel from June 7. It is currently unclear if the weekend’s developments will have any impact on this plan. Delta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Qantas Airways said Friday that it would not fly over Middle East airspace.

Kuwait Airways said Saturday that it would divert all its flights from “the areas of tension.”

Aviation tracking service Flightradar24 reported on Saturday evening that airspace in neighboring countries, including Iraq, was closed or heavily restricted, a notable development as the air corridors are usually used by hundreds of flights a day flying between Europe and Asia.

As of Sunday morning, Flightradar24 was reporting that most closures had been lifted:

Airlines Take Precautions

U.S. intelligence agencies reported earlier in the week that an attack from Iran on Israel was imminent. In response, Lufthansa suspended flights to Tehran after the intelligence reports became public. Qantas said Friday it would not fly over Middle East airspace.

It is unclear if the U.S. would impose any similar restrictions over Middle East airspace if tensions continue to escalate. The FAA said to Skift that it was not changing any restrictions at the moment. 

Most international carriers halted all flights to Tel Aviv after the start of the Israel-Gaza war in early October 2023. Many airlines including easyJet, Air France, and British Airways had recently resumed services to the country.

An earlier version of this story said Delta Air Lines restarted its Tel Aviv route in March. This has been updated to reflect that the airline is currently due to return to Tel Aviv from June 7.


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Tags: delta air lines, iran, israel, israel-hamas war, united airlines

Photo credit: Vincenzo Pace Vincezo Pace

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