What travelers need to know following deadly clashes in Israel and Gaza

Oct 9, 2023, 9:00 PM

Some flights to and from Ben Gurion International Airport have been affected by the attacks. (Xinhu...

Some flights to and from Ben Gurion International Airport have been affected by the attacks. (Xinhua/Shutterstock)


Originally Published: 09 OCT 23 11:16 ET
Updated: 09 OCT 23 21:07 ET

(CNN) — Fighting continues to rage between Israeli forces and Hamas militants following the Islamist militant group’s deadly surprise assault on Israel on Saturday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring that the country is now “at war.

Most international airlines have already cancelled flights in and out of Israel and governments are revising travel guidance for those heading to the region.

The situation remains fluid and all information is subject to sudden change, but here’s what travelers need to know following the attacks.

What is the impact on aviation?

Among the locations Hamas has claimed it is targeting is Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel’s international hub, located just outside Tel Aviv.

CNN’s Nic Robertson was on the ground at the airport on Saturday, October 7 when the sound of missiles was heard overhead.

He and other passengers and crew laid face-down on the ground as sirens blared in the distance and missiles were intercepted by the country’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Despite the fighting, Ben Gurion’s website said the country’s largest and busiest airport was still open and operational as of Monday morning.

The country’s second-largest airport, Ilan and Asaf Ramon International Airport (ETM) in the southern Red Sea city of Eilat, also says it plans to continue services.

As for Israeli airlines, El Al, the country’s flag carrier, issued a statement on October 8 saying it would continue to operate as usual.

“El Al Airlines operates in accordance with the instructions of the Israeli security forces. Our flights are operated as scheduled. All El Al flights will depart from Terminal 3 only.”

The airline is offering options for travelers who wish to “freeze” their tickets, allowing them to use them on an unspecified future date.  Booking change fees are being waived for travelers who have flights scheduled between now and October 21.

Anyone who wishes to cancel their trip is eligible for a voucher, which they can obtain by filling out the form on El Al’s website. The airline also has an emergency hotline for customers affected by the situation.

On Monday, October 9, some flights were still landing at Ben Gurion, nearly all of which were operated by Israeli airlines, including El Al flights from Rome, Milan, and Athens.  Some flights were listed as delayed.

The country’s two smaller carriers, Israir and Arkia Airlines, said they would be operating flights to help Israelis abroad return home.

What about non-Israeli airlines?

International airlines have announced they will cut their air services to Israel dramatically as the situation evolves.

Among these is German airline Lufthansa. It said in a statement: “Against the background of the current security situation in Israel, Lufthansa Group Airlines is reducing its flight program to/from Tel Aviv this Saturday.”

French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne told CNN affiliate BFM TV that Air France had suspended all flights to Israel for the time being.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways said on Monday that it was canceling its flights to and from Tel Aviv and would next give updates on October 12.

Korean Air, the only South Korean airline that operates direct flights between Incheon and Tel Aviv, canceled its Monday flight — but said it would operate a return flight from Tel Aviv to Incheon, to bring people home.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines has issued guidance for passengers with flights booked to or from Tel Aviv between October 7-14. They can rebook for dates after October 21 without a change fee, provided they remain in the same class of service.

If a traveler opts to cancel their trip entirely, they are eligible for a voucher for the price paid for the ticket, which must be used within one year.

American Airlines has cancelled direct flights, as has United Airlines.

“The safety of our customers and crews is our top priority,” a representative for United said in a statement.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and we are adjusting flight schedules as required.”

The airline confirmed that flights would remain suspended “until conditions allow them to resume.”

Other major airlines announcing cancellations include: Air Canada, Hainan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Royal Air Marcoc.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a memo urging US pilots to “use caution when flying in Israeli airspace,” according to Reuters.

Are scheduled events still happening?

The Union of European Football Associations has called off all matches due to take place in Israel over the next few weeks. That includes a Euro 2024 qualifier between Israel and Switzerland, as well as Israel’s Euro Under-21 championship matches against Estonia and Germany.

“UEFA will continue to closely monitor the situation and will remain in contact with all teams involved before making decisions on new dates and on potential changes to other upcoming fixtures,” the European sporting body said in a statement.

Live Nation, the music and live events company, announced that a Bruno Mars concert scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park on the weekend was canceled.

The Hawaiian musician performed to a sold-out crowd on October 4 and was due to hold a second concert on the 7th. Live Nation said in a statement that everyone who had purchased tickets for the second show would be automatically refunded.

What are foreign governments saying?

Multiple countries have updated their guidance on travel to Israel and Gaza following the weekend attacks.

“The situation in Israel continues to be unpredictable,” said the US Embassy in Israel in a statement, which advised American citizens in Israel to contact the embassy in Jerusalem or the consulate in Tel Aviv.

If family members in the US are trying to get in touch with loved ones in Israel, there is a crisis intake form they can fill out to request support.

Meanwhile, the UK embassy recommends that British nationals in Israel contact and follow the advice of the Home Front Command, a civil defense group in Israel that conducts search and rescue operations.

In addition, the UK embassy advises that its citizens avoid several areas of the country that are currently dangerous, namely Gaza and the areas around the Lebanon border.

CNN’s Nicole Goodkind and Sophie Jeong contributed reporting. 

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What travelers need to know following deadly clashes in Israel and Gaza