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Last minute decision-making said to leave many flights up in the air

Airlines began selling tickets after ministers approved wider opening of airport, but last-minute delay in cabinet vote has mired process in uncertainty

Passengers arriving on a flight from Frankfurt take part in the pilot program of wearing electrical bracelets upon arrival in Israel, for the quarantine period. March 01, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Passengers arriving on a flight from Frankfurt take part in the pilot program of wearing electrical bracelets upon arrival in Israel, for the quarantine period. March 01, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The government’s last-minute, haphazard decision-making process has once again left many Israelis uncertain about their plans after a cabinet vote on widening activity at Ben Gurion Airport from Sunday was delayed by a day from Friday to Saturday night — hours before the new protocol was slated to go into place.

Earlier this week, the high-level coronavirus cabinet approved a plan to begin reopening Ben Gurion Airport ahead of the upcoming elections, following criticism of the government panel that has been deciding which Israelis may enter the country amid the ongoing general closure of the airport.

The decision would allow 3,000 passengers to enter the country each day, though Transportation Minister Miri Regev has said she would cut the number to 1,000 passengers initially so as not to overwhelm authorities trying to enforce quarantine guidelines.

The decision, along with a host of other ones to further reopen schools, restaurants, hotels, attractions and other parts of the economy, still required the approval of the full cabinet, which was discussing the matter on Saturday night.

Currently flights are allowed from five locations — New York, Paris, London, Frankfurt and Kyiv. The preliminary cabinet decision to widen activity at the airport had stated that additional locations would be opened for travel, leading many airlines to assume they could start offering flights from other locations as well. However, according to the Ynet news site, the delay has now caused uncertainty as to whether some of the flights can go forward.

View of Ben Gurion International Airport on February 28, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Now, passengers who purchased tickets for those flights are left with their plans up in the air, until the government makes its position clear.

It was not immediately clear whether the Saturday night vote would include an expansion of the list of countries to and from which passengers will be allowed to travel.

It’s not just travelers who are left under a cloud of uncertainty.

Restaurateurs expressed outrage on Saturday over a delay of the vote finalizing regulations for their planned reopening the next day, and slammed the reported “shameful and disrespectful” changes to the proposed framework in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The authors of the letter criticized the frequent adjustments made to the proposal for the country’s next step in emerging from a nationwide lockdown on Sunday, saying they would open in accordance with the initial plan.

According to the authors, after agreeing on a distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) between tables and 75 percent occupancy of fully vaccinated diners, the guidelines were to be changed to 2.5 meters (8 feet) between tables and only 30% occupancy, which made the regulations “shameful and disrespectful.”

Channel 12 reported Saturday evening that there was an attempt to reach a compromise on the matter.

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