Israel reopens airspace as airlines cancel flights in wake of Iran attack

Israel Airports Authority says most flights of foreign carriers have been delayed, while flights by flag carrier El Al were able to take off to destinations in Europe

A Ryanair plane at Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv. March 2, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/ Flash90)
A Ryanair plane at Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv. March 2, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/ Flash90)

Israeli airlines said operations were returning to normal on Sunday after an unprecedented missile and drone attack by Iran closed the airspace and led to flight cancellations.

Israel reopened its airspace as of 7:30 a.m. on Sunday after the overnight assault, though flight schedules from Tel Aviv were expected to be affected and travelers were advised to check flight times before going to Ben Gurion Airport.

Iran launched more than 300 projectiles at Israel –170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles — of which 99 percent were intercepted by Israeli and allied countries’ air defenses, including the US, Britain, France and Jordan.

Flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines said it had resumed operations and was “working to stabilize the flight schedule as soon as possible,” as Israelis flocked to Ben Gurion Airport, traveling for the upcoming Passover holiday.

“El Al will continue to operate as much as possible to preserve the air bridge to and from Israel,” it said.

The airline had cancelled 15 flights to Europe, Dubai and Moscow scheduled for Sunday, while flights that had taken off from Bangkok and Phuket were forced to return.

Passengers at the departure hall in the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on April 14, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

Smaller Israeli carrier Arkia said it was making adjustments to its flight schedule after initially postponing flights to Athens, Milan and Geneva.

According to the Airports Authority, most flights of foreign carriers have been delayed, including Sunday flights to London by Wizz Air, to New Delhi by Air India, to Madrid by Iberia, and to Marseille by Air France.

El Al’s flights to London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Bucharest, Athens, Paris, and Rome, and Ethiopian Airline’s flight to Addis Ababa were able to take off.

Flights into Israel were also disrupted.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways canceled flights to Jordan and Israel on Sunday, the airline said in a statement.

Delays to flights

Swiss International Air Lines has suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv until further notice, the airline said in a post on X on Sunday.

Swiss, owned by German carrier Lufthansa, said all of its planes were avoiding the airspaces of Iran, Iraq, and Israel, causing delays to flights from India and Singapore.

In addition to Swiss, Lufthansa said its flights and those of Austrian were also suspended to Tel Aviv, Amman and Erbil until Tuesday. Air India also reportedly has temporarily halted flights to Israel.

With the Jewish festival of Passover next week, El Al said it was offering rescue flights from Athens, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Madrid, New York, and Miami, for Israelis stranded abroad by other carriers.

Its Sun Dor subsidiary is offering flights back to Israel from Larnaca, Rhodes, Warsaw, and Krakow.

Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon reopened their airspaces on Sunday, after closing them late on Saturday.

United Airlines canceled both Saturday and Sunday’s planned flights from Newark to Tel Aviv, the airline said in a statement. United is the only major US airline to have resumed flights to Israel since the attacks by Hamas on Israel in October last year.

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