United Says It Plans to Resume Direct Flights to Israel Next Month

United is the first U.S. airline company to resume flights to Israel since the Hamas attack in October 2023.
United Says It Plans to Resume Direct Flights to Israel Next Month
A United Airlines jet taxis at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Sept. 19, 2014. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

United Airlines will resume scheduling flights to Israel beginning next month, initially planning to offer a single daily flight and will “adjust the schedule as warranted.”

United’s flights to Israel were suspended in October 2023, following Hamas’s attacks. Service is planned to resume in March, with initial flights between Newark, New Jersey, and Tel Aviv scheduled for March 2 and 4, with a stop in Munich, the Chicago-based airline said.

Daily “nonstop service” to Tel Aviv will resume beginning on March 6.

If plans materialize, United will be the first U.S.-based carrier to resume flights to Israel since the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks. United said this will be “the first step in restoring vital passenger and cargo service.”

“United conducted a detailed safety analysis in making this decision, including close work with security experts and government officials in the United States and Israel,” the carrier stated. “We also worked closely with the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants to develop the protocols to ensure they are safe and well-informed.

“United will continue to monitor the situation in Tel Aviv and adjust the schedule as warranted, including changes to the resumed service from New York/Newark announced today.”

Once demand for the flights recovers, United intends to resume a second daily flight between Newark and Tel Aviv beginning “as soon as May.”

“Before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, United used to have services to Tel Aviv from San Francisco, Washington Dulles, and Chicago O'Hare. For now, the airline will only consider resuming these flights ”beginning in the fall.”

None of the other major U.S. airlines that had stopped flights to Israel have announced resumption of services. In a Jan. 17 update, Delta Airlines said it would continue avoiding flights to Israel through April 30.

Some major European airlines have resumed their Israel travels. Germany’s Lufthansa and its affiliates SWISS and Austrian Airlines kicked off flights to the Middle East nation last month. Air France followed by resuming operations. A few more European carriers have indicated plans to resume services this spring.

The U.S. Department of State, in a Jan. 7 update, asked people to “reconsider travel” to Israel due to terrorism and civil unrest.

“Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Violence can occur in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza without warning,” it stated.

Airline Traffic and Tourism Impact

United’s decision to resume services to Israel comes as the country’s tourism chamber recently suggested that the nation has become isolated like North Korea, with visitors staying back due to war.

Yossi Fattal, director general of the Chamber of Inbound Tourism Organizers, noted in an interview with the local Maariv newspaper that “before the crisis, there were 250 airline companies operating in Israel, and now only 45 companies are operating.”

“Israel is currently completely isolated from the world. Eighty percent of flights today are operated by aircraft from Israel belonging to the [Israeli] El Al company ... With regard to aviation, we have become one of the most isolated countries in the world, like North Korea.”

He called the situation an “unfortunate victory for Hamas over Israel.” Mr. Fattal said the country should have created a situation where it was possible to encourage visitors to come to Israel despite the war.

He noted that both Egypt and Jordan, which are also affected by the ongoing conflict, finance the airlines that bring in tourists.

“Today, Israel does not fund insurance for foreign airlines, only Israeli ones. The insurance premiums required to travel to Israel are enormous.” He expects the tourism sector to take two or three years to recover.

According to an analysis by media outlet Jewish Insider, Israel was set to receive about 3.9 million visitors last year before the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks. Prior to the war, 3.01 million tourists had visited the nation, a 12.5 percent increase from the year-earlier period.

However, numbers plunged after the conflict began, with only 180,000 visitors arriving in the last quarter of 2023. Then, just 58,000 people visited in January, far below the 257,400 in January 2023.

“If there is one sector of the economy that is always hurt during these kind of confrontations, it is foreign tourism,” Michel Strawczynski, an economist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Jewish Insider.

“While internal tourism is now doing quite well now, with Israelis coming back to activities and vacations and normal life, foreign tourism has still not returned.”

A key barrier to tourism is that major U.S. airlines haven’t fully restored service to Israel, he said.

“Some of the airlines have come back but they are not operating at full capacity because this is one of the industries that is fully dependent on the duration of the war.”

During a recent speech at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Israel’s Minister of Tourism Haim Katz encouraged the Christian community to visit Israel.