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Israel went from 5,000 passengers an hour to 5,000 a month

Several airlines announce resumption of Israel routes after virus grounds travel

Delta and Wizz Air taking bookings from New York, London, Vienna to Ben Gurion Airport, where arrivals have slowed to a trickle; British Airways and Air Canada also set to restart

Parking airplanes and other equipment at Ben Gurion airport on April 6, 2020. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Parking airplanes and other equipment at Ben Gurion airport on April 6, 2020. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

US airline Delta and Budget carrier Wizz Air plan to resume flights to Israel early next month, as global travel begins to ramp back up following an unprecedented shutdown wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

A notice on the Delta Airlines website says that it is booking flights between New York and Tel Aviv slated to begin again starting on May 10. However, a statement from the airline on Friday announcing resumed service around the world did not list a Tel Aviv route.

The airline cut off service to Ben Gurion Airport in mid-March, after Israel put in place travel restrictions intended to keep travelers who may be carrying COVID-19 from entering the country. It had previously offered daily flights between the destinations.

On May 3, Hungary-based Wizz Air is also set to resume service between Tel Aviv and London, part of a plan to begin flying across the Continent again.

The first scheduled flight of the low-cost Wizz Air airlines from London-Luton, Great Britain, lands at the airport of Debrecen on Monday, June 18, 2012. (AP/MTI, Zsolt Czegledi)

Flights will run three times a week at first, and the airline has said in the past it is planning on leaving a third of the plane empty to ensure there is room between passengers.

A Vienna-Tel Aviv route is also taking bookings starting on May 17.

“The protective measures that we are implementing will ensure the most sanitary conditions possible,” Wizz Air UK managing director Owain Jones said, according to Reuters.

According to a Globes report on Saturday, British Airways is set to restart London Heathrow – Tel Aviv flights on May 1, and Air Canada is restarting flights between Tel Aviv and Toronto and Montreal in May and June.

El Al said Sunday it was arranging one-off flights to and from London, Paris and Miami later this week, but that its normal flights will remain suspended until May 9 at the earliest.

All arrivals in Israel are required to enter state-overseen quarantine facilities for 14 days.

International air travel worldwide is down some 80 percent, according to a recent report from the International Air Transport Association, which predicted over $300 billion in losses for the airline sector due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In Israel, air travel has all but shut down, with only a handful of flights weekly, including a daily route to Newark, New Jersey, flown by United Airlines. United is set to reintroduce Tel Aviv-San Francisco flights, Globes reported.

The empty arrivals hall at Ben Gurion International Airport on April 12, 2020. (Flash90)

“We’ve gone from 5,000 passengers an hour to 5,000 passengers for all of this month so far,” airport official Ofer Lefler told Channel 13 news last week.

Since April 12, all people arriving in Israel from overseas are required to be housed at state-run quarantine hotels upon entry to the country for 14 days.

Illustrative: An ambulance outside the Dan hotel in Jerusalem, which was turned into a quarantine facility, on April 13, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

On Thursday, an Israeli man who had tested positive for COVID-19 managed to board a flight from New York to Israel, prompting concern that others on the plane may have contracted the virus as well.

The man, a kashrut supervisor from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, was taken to a different facility than others on the plane, who will all be tested, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Saturday evening.

The official said the US planned to suspend his visa and the Israeli Health Ministry was looking to file a police complaint against him.

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