United Airlines pilots refuse to fly to Israel, cite fictitious curfew

A United Airlines flight from Newark said a 24-hour delay was due to a "curfew" in Tel Aviv. Ben-Gurion Airport spokesperson: "There is no curfew. At all."

A United Airlines passenger jet taxis at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS HELGREN)
A United Airlines passenger jet taxis at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS HELGREN)

A United Airlines flight from Newark to Tel Aviv meant to take off Saturday night was delayed for 24 hours due to a purported "curfew in Tel Aviv," with the pilots refusing to fly to Israel. 

"They probably realized that it is better to blame an imaginary curfew so that they are not obligated to compensate [us for the long delay]."

Israeli passenger on the grounded United Airlines flight from Newark to Tel Aviv

The flight, designated United Airlines flight 84 (UA 84), was scheduled to come in amid the IDF's ongoing Operation Breaking Dawn, during which Israel has been exchanging rocket fire with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

The flight crew announced that "the pilot refuses to fly at this stage," after passengers pressed questions about the alleged curfew, as confirmed by footage shared on social media by Gil Eyal, one of the delayed passengers.

 United Airlines informing passengers on flight 84 to Tel Aviv that their flight was delayed due to a Tel Aviv curfew, which doesn't exist. (credit: Courtesy Shirlee Klein) United Airlines informing passengers on flight 84 to Tel Aviv that their flight was delayed due to a Tel Aviv curfew, which doesn't exist. (credit: Courtesy Shirlee Klein)

United Airlines had informed passengers that the reason for the delay was a Tel Aviv curfew restricting planes from landing.

When asked about this claim, a Ben-Gurion Airport spokesperson said: "There is no curfew. At all."

The delay itself was confirmed by flight tracker Flightview, with the flight having been rescheduled for Sunday morning EST.

Thus far, passengers claim to have been denied any accommodations by the airline or compensation, with the exception of a $40 meal voucher.

Another passenger, Shirlee Klein, expressed her frustration to The Jerusalem Post with the airline due to the experience, with the announcement having been made right as boarding was about to start.

When Klein asked if the flight was delayed due to the rockets, however, she was informed that this wasn't the case. Rather, the pilots simply refused to fly to Israel. Not only that, but she also wouldn't be provided any accommodations.

"I asked a United agent what happened 'Are the pilots concerned about the rockets? 'Where should I go?’ She said 'No miss, they do not want to go to Israel, period. You will not be given hotels so figure it out.'"

"I asked a United agent what happened 'Are the pilots concerned about the rockets? 'Where should I go?’ She said 'No miss, they do not want to go to Israel, period. You will not be given hotels so figure it out.'"

Shirlee Klein

Klein, like many others, was also denied access to her luggage, which was placed on a lost luggage carousel. She even knew exactly where, because of Apple AirTags.

But because her flight was canceled, she wasn't cleared to access the gate where it was located. Further, the airport staff was unable to move it since they lacked the clearance to move luggage for an international flight.

This is a significant problem as it means passengers won't even be able to access their luggage - something that can be especially problematic for passengers who need medication like insulin stored in their luggage.

When asked if she received any form of compensation, Klein referred to a text message she received from United offering a $40 meal voucher.

Her calls to United's support line went unanswered, even after being on hold for three hours, she explained.

At a loss, Klein had no choice but to book a flight through El Al instead — which United wouldn't pay for, either.

All this while her luggage still sits at Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport.

Ultimately, she waited for several hours before boarding her new flight, "with no luggage and a deep sadness that rockets are falling on my home and that people get away with these types of actions."

Responding the Post, United said that hotel accommodations were offered to passengers and said the delay was due to maintenance. This is despite the website listing the reason for the delay as being due to the curfew.

What curfew?

 A salvo of rockets is fired from Gaza City toward Israel, on August 6, 2022.  (credit: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/GETTY IMAGES) A salvo of rockets is fired from Gaza City toward Israel, on August 6, 2022. (credit: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel's Home Front Command does restrict public activity during periods of heavy rocket fire. However, the restrictions are usually focused on school and workplace attendance or social gatherings of ten people or more. 

While citizens of some towns in southern Israel have been advised to stay inside and avoid large gatherings during Operation Breaking Dawn, there have been no government-mandated curfews instituted due to rocket fire.

To make matters even more confusing, another United flight from Newark to Tel Aviv scheduled for the same day, UA 90, took off without issue, as noted by FlightAware, despite claims of a curfew regarding the first flight.

So why is United claiming there is a curfew?

An Israeli passenger told N12 that United claimed "that there was a curfew on flights to Tel Aviv. They probably realized that it is better to blame an imaginary curfew so that they are not obligated to compensate [us for the long delay]."

According to United's policy, they do not offer compensation or accommodations for flights that are delayed for reasons outside their control.

Further details are unavailable at this time.

This is a developing story.