Israel’s aviation industry is in danger of collapse, airline company heads told the country’s coronavirus airport commissioner Wednesday.
A solution to allow air travel, despite fears of new coronavirus variants and rising case numbers, must be found quickly, the airline heads told Maj.-Gen. (res.) Roni Numa ahead of the coronavirus cabinet’s meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Numa met with the heads of El Al, Israir, and Arkia and international carriers in order to hear their feedback and ask for solutions ahead of Thursday’s meeting, his spokesman said.
In addition, the CEOs sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett calling on him to recognize the seriousness of the situation for the industry and its workers.
Israel’s travel industry is in a state of disarray as the government waffles on offering any clear guidance about travel restrictions ahead of what is hoped to be a busy August. Among the ideas that have been floated in past days include the prospect of requiring all incoming travelers to quarantine for seven days, and closing the airport completely. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash have repeatedly asked Israelis to avoid any non-essential travel plans.
Such talk is causing a lot of anxiety for the tens of thousands of Israelis with travel plans for August, as well as for the airlines expecting to carry them. Many have already canceled vacations in Europe, where countries have begun reinstituting their own travel restrictions. Meanwhile, there has been a recent surge in travelers heading to the US, as other options seem closed off.
Israel’s airlines have suffered tremendously during the pandemic. El Al lost $531 million in 2020 and saw revenues drop more than 70% due to canceled flights last year. Customers were forced to wait months until their flight tickets were refunded. In recent months, The government spent nearly NIS 750m. bailing out El Al and Israir. The prospect of further closures or cancellations would dig those holes even deeper.