TEL AVIV (Mar. 3)
The cessation of the fighting in the Persian Gulf has brought an end to the suspension by foreign airlines of flights to Israel and other countries of the Middle East.
That should reinvigorate the flagging tourism industry, which already is reporting a resurgence of inquiries about trips to the region.
International airlines that halted service to Israel before the start of the war because of high insurance rates are gradually winging their way back to Ben-Gurion Airport.
The stalwart El Al and the American carrier Tower Air, which had been the sole carriers flying to Israel during the war, will no longer have an uncontested choice of runways.
Germany’s Lufthansa on Friday became the first foreign carrier to resume its full daily scheduled service to Israel. Air France began flights again on Sunday.
Olympic Airlines, the last to pull out, had hoped to be the first back this week. The Greek carrier will return to Tel Aviv on Tuesday. For the time being, Olympic will fly twice weekly from Athens, returning eventually to its former schedule of three flights a week.
Most of the some 18 other carriers that flew to Israel have said they will resume their flights here gradually, working their way up from abbreviated service to full schedules within a few days.
The last to return will be the American carriers, and one of them may not return there at all.
TWA MAY NOT RESUME SERVICE
Trans World Airlines, which had not expected to suspend flights to Israel even as war was looming, has now indicated it may not be able to resume operations to Israel. Its chief reason appears to be its own troubled finances.
TWA’s local staff in Israel, who have not yet received their salaries for February, have been told they need not plan to return to work, as the Israeli office of the airline may not reopen at all.
The air carrier, which cut its first-class ticket prices by 60 percent and business-class tickets by 50 percent if purchased by March 15, has defaulted on a $75 million bond payment, because it needs cash to continue operating, The New York Times reported.
However, a spokesman for TWA told the Times that the airline was “looking into the possibility of restoring service to Tel Aviv and other cities whose service was suspended.”
British Airways will resume service on March 14, providing six flights per week to Tel Aviv, just as before the war.
Pan American Airways, which has filed for bankruptcy, will probably be the last to return to Israel. Its senior vice president of corporate communications, Jeffrey Kreindler, told the Times that the carrier plans to resume flights to Israel in May.
Meanwhile, the time required for check-in was being somewhat reduced by some airlines. Lufthansa has stopped asking passengers to arrive at the airport two to three hours prior to their flights, but has returned to normal check-in time, 90 minutes before boarding, according to the Times.