Ethiopian Airlines reclaims ‘Africa’s Leading Airline’ title at World Travel Awards 2023

Ethiopian Airlines was on Sunday named “Africa’s Leading Airline” at the 2023 World Travel Awards held in Dubai for Africa and Indian ocean regions.

Africa’s largest airline lost the title to Kenya Airways in 2021 which went on to win it for two consecutive years. Before that, the Ethiopian airline had held the coveted title for three consecutive years beginning in 2018 having wrested it from Kenya Airways.

Ethiopian Airlines was also awarded as Africa’s “Best Business Class” and “Leading Airline Brand” for 2023. It flies to more than 150 domestic and international destinations in five continents.

Kenya Airways took home the 2023 “Africa’s Leading Airline – Economy Class,” while its wholly-owned subsidiary Jambojet took home the crown of “Africa’s Leading Low-Cost Airline.”

The World Travel Awards (WTA) were established in 1993 to celebrate what it calls “excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.”

Since the founding of WTA, South African Airways held the “Africa’s Leading Airline” title for 22 consecutive years starting in 1994 when Kenya Airways dislodged it 2016.

With Sunday’s win by Ethiopian Airlines, the two airlines have now each won it four times.

Since that 2016 ouster, only Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways have held the World Travel Awards title for the best airline in Africa.

At the time of this writing Ethiopian Airlines had not yet responded to a request for a statement on their latest win.

Cape Town International Airport in South Africa was named “Africa’s Leading Airport” for 2023.

According to the WTA, qualified executives that work in the travel and tourism industry along with travel buyers participate in year-long worldwide online voting process to determine the winners of the various categories.

The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) said in the second quarter of this year that air travel in Africa has continued to make a “robust recovery” post-pandemic and that as of the second quarter, air travel on the continent had reached 94.8% of 2019 levels.

According to a report released in early 2023 looking at the effects of the pandemic on airline travel on the continent, AFRAA said African airlines lost $3.5 billion in revenue in 2022 and $8.6 billion in 2021.

Other notable wins at the World Travel Awards 2023

Below is a non-exhaustive list of award winners that caught our attention:

Africa’s Most Romantic Resort – Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort, Mozambique

Africa’s Leading Business Travel Destination – Nairobi, Kenya

Africa’s Leading Business Hotel – Transcorp Hilton Abuja, Nigeria

Africa’s Leading Airport Hotel – Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport, Kenya

Africa’s Leading Luxury Hotel – The Silo Hotel, South Africa

Africa’s Leading Luxury Resort – One&Only Cape Town, South Africa

Africa’s Leading Green Hotel – Cheetah Plains, South Africa

Africa’s Leading Private Island Resort – Manda Bay, Kenya

Africa’s Leading Luxury Island – Thanda Island, Tanzania

Africa’s Leading National Park – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Africa’s Leading Conference Hotel – Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre, Rwanda

Africa’s Leading Tourist Attraction – Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Africa’s Leading Beach Destination – Diani Beach, Kenya

Africa’s Leading Beach Resort – Swahili Beach, Kenya

Africa’s Leading Family Resort – Baobab Beach Resort & Spa, Kenya

Africa’s Leading City Destination – Cape Town, South Africa

Africa’s Leading Cruise Port – Port of Cape Town, South Africa

Africa’s Leading Casino Resort – Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort, Morocco

Africa’s Leading Destination – Kenya

Source: Mshale

Rwanda’s proposed $53m aviation training centre: What you need to know

Rwanda plans to set up an aircraft hangar and centre of excellence in aviation training in Kigali, aiming to build local capacity and empower the labour force in the aviation industry, not only in Rwanda but also in the region and beyond, The New Times understands.

According to an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report on the Aircraft Hangar and Centre of Excellence Aviation Training Centre Project, by Akagera Aviation, dated May 2023, the project will cost an estimated $53.5 million (approx. Rwf65 billion).

It indicated that as Rwanda invests in the construction of its international airport in Bugesera and its airplane fleet, skilled personnel are required to manage, operate, and maintain these investments.

Therefore, the report noted, that the African Development Bank (AfDB) will assist the government in establishing the Centre of Excellence for Aviation Skills (CEAS), which will serve as an aviation academy training centre to meet the demand for qualified human capital.

The project is in line with the Government of Rwanda’s vision to develop the transportation sector by enhancing the quality and dependability of transport services while reducing costs.

1. Project objectives

The aviation industry in Rwanda is experiencing rapid growth and has set its sights on becoming a leading centre for aviation excellence. As part of this goal, the objective of the proposed centre of excellence in the aviation training centre and aircraft hangar project is to provide training for pilots, maintenance staff, air traffic management personnel, and other related fields. The aircraft hangar will also serve as a shelter for airplanes and a facility for technical activities.

2. Capacity and developer

Akagera Aviation Limited (developer) plans to build an aircraft hangar at Kigali International Airport that can accommodate eight Beechcraft King Air size aircraft. They also propose the establishment of an aviation training centre of excellence, which will cater to a maximum of 490 students.

The centre of excellence will offer different aviation training/courses such as pilot training, maintenance training, cabin crew, dispatch, ancillary courses, air traffic management courses, aeronautical information services, aeronautical meteorological services, aeronautical communications operations, communication navigation, and surveillance, airport emergency services (operations), and other supporting programs.

Again, the centre will partner with higher learning institutions to provide academic aviation courses.

3. Drone piloting training

Given the increasing importance of drones applications in Rwanda, the centre of excellence will also provide drone piloting training along with other manned aircraft pilot training courses such as, Private Pilot License classroom (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL) training, Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), Flight Simulator Recurrent training and other advanced pilot training for specialised missions.

4. Cost and staffing

Cost estimation involves predicting project expenses, including materials and labour. The project’s total cost amounts to $53.5 million, divided into infrastructure and equipment expenses of $29.1 million and $24.4 million, respectively. The construction phase will require up to 1,000 workers while the operation phase takes up to 98 workers, as per the above-mentioned report.

5. Financier

The proposed hangar and centre of excellence aviation training centre project will be financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The AfDB’s financial support for the project is a testament to their commitment to promoting sustainable economic development and social progress in the region by investing in critical infrastructure and human capital development.

6. Construction timeframe

It is estimated the construction will take a period of 24 months. Construction of the aircraft hangar and the aviation training centre of excellence will involve site fencing and managing site access and contact points, and pollution generation control and management during construction works, among others.

Source: Newtimes

AFRAA’s Secretary General, Discusses African Aviation Recovery, Blocked Funds, and Priorities for Transformation

One of the most significant revelations from the interview is the remarkable recovery of the African aviation industry. Berthe notes that the industry has been on an upward trajectory since late 2022. By September, African aviation had not only recovered but exceeded pre-COVID-19 traffic levels, providing a beacon of hope for the sector. He predicts that early next year, the industry will surpass pre-pandemic levels, showcasing its resilience and vitality.

While the level of connectivity on the continent remains very low, Berthe envisions a dynamic future, stating, “The traffic is expected to double by 2040.” AFRAA represents 50 member airlines on the continent, that accounts for over 85% of the total international traffic carried by African carriers.

Challenges Persist: Unblocking Funds Critical for Sustainable Recovery

Despite the positive trends in traffic recovery, Berthe underscores the substantial challenges faced by African airlines, with a particular focus on blocked funds. These blocked funds represent payments owed to African airlines by foreign governments. The amount of blocked funds in different African states continues to grow, impeding airlines’ liquidity and operational capabilities.

Berthe details AFRAA’s proactive approach in addressing this issue through advocacy initiatives and seeking solutions to unblock these funds. He also highlights the vital role of governments and central banks in prioritizing the aviation sector to ensure the efficient flow of funds and avoid detrimental consequences for the airlines.

AFRAA’s Strategic Priorities: Sustainability, Safety, and Connectivity

The interview delves into AFRAA’s current strategic priorities, encompassing sustainability, safety, and connectivity:

1. Sustainability: Berthe emphasizes the multidimensional nature of sustainability, encompassing environmental, economic, and social sustainability. AFRAA’s sustainability roadmap, developed during the Transport Sustainability Laboratory in Nairobi, serves as a guiding framework to ensure the long-term viability of African airlines.

2. Safety: Maintaining the highest safety standards remains a top priority for AFRAA. The launch of the first Safety and Operations Summit, hosted by Ethiopian Airlines, is scheduled for May next year. Ensuring safety remains paramount as African air transport continues to expand.

3. Connectivity: While recovery is in progress, Berthe highlights the need to improve connectivity within Africa. AFRAA’s projects aim to enhance connectivity and expand flight routes on the continent, with a particular focus on promoting interline and codeshare agreements among member airlines.

The AFRAA SG emphasizes that collaboration is the linchpin of progress in the African aviation industry. Collaboration is required between African airlines, regulators, and other sectors such as tourism and trade to drive transformation. He stresses that while expanding route networks is crucial, signing agreements that enhance connectivity is equally vital. Collaboration remains the key to unlocking the industry’s full potential and ensuring its long-term success.

Source: Airspace Africa.

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Morocco Tourist Sites Reopen One Month After Earthquake 

Multiple historic sites in Marrakech were reopened to tourists on Sunday, a month after a devastating earthquake hit Morocco and took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. The reopened sites include Bahia Palace, Badi Palace, and the Saadian Tombs, reported Morocco World News.

Morocco is also hosting a large conference this week: The 2023 World Bank and IMF annual meeting. It is the highest-profile event Morocco has hosted so far, said Siham Fettouhi, Morocco Tourism Office Director for USA and Canada.

“We’ve been hosting more and more events every year, and the proof of that is that annual conference, we’re talking about more than 14,000 people coming into Marrakech this week,” said Fettouhi.Top of Form

Some parts of the areas affected by the earthquake remained closed to the public. “There’s a few locations that are not open to the public now in Marrakech because of what happened in the mountains more than in Marrakech itself,” said Fettouhi.

That hasn’t stopped tourism to Morocco. “People are still coming. People do understand that it’s an earthquake. It’s not a virus or something else that people don’t understand,” she said.

Morocco’s has been having a strong tourism trajectory this year. Between January and August, Morocco welcomed 10.2 million travelers. The country may exceed its pre-pandemic level of 13 million this year, said Fettouhi.

The Moroccan government aims to attract 17.5 million tourists and $12 billion in revenue by 2026. Between 2023 and 2025, Morocco’s government will be investing $2.7 billion in tourism, which will include hotels, airports, training and roads, said Fetthoui.

A big portion of the investment is going toward training to serve different markets. The country has seen strong growth from markets like India, China, South Korea and the U.S.

Over the past few decades, Morocco has become a unique destination with a variety of offerings, from ancient ruins to cultural experiences to trekking in the Atlas Mountains, according to multiple tour operators.

“More recently, Morocco has become a destination of choice – it used to be more of an add-on,” said Michael Edwards, Managing Director, Explore Worldwide. In the past, travelers used to pair Morocco with trips to Spain or France and focus on mostly on culture tours.

The government has added 1800 km in highway infrastructure to make more destinations accessible. In the past, it took travelers “hours and hours” to drive from Rabat to Marrakech. Now, it’s a two-hour drive.

The country has excellent infrastructure for circuit tours, said Kelly Torrens, vice president of product for Kensington Tours. “The quality of the guiding and the accommodation is great in Morocco,” she said.

The country has over 286,000 hotels beds – 10 years ago, it had 200,000.

What kicked off Morocco’s trajectory was an aviation agreement the country signed with the European Union in 2006, said Fettouhi. Under the agreement, EU and Moroccan airlines could operate routes between any EU airport and Morocco without capacity restrictions.

Since the agreement, the number of airlines servicing Morocco grew from 24 to 61 between 2004 and 2019. Total weekly flights rose from 400 in 2000 to 1,521 in 2019. Total international cities connected to Morocco’s airports rose from 48 to 153 between 2004 and 2019.

International travel to Morroco has exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Over 11 million international travelers flew through Morocco in the first half of 2023, up 7% from 10.2 million in 2019, according to Morocco Airports Authority. “Pretty much every airport in the country is busier than it was in 2019, and by a lot,” said Skift Airline Weekly Senior Editor Jay Shabat.

Source: Skift

TravelTech needs FinTech in Africa

Africa’s travel and tourism sector has immense growth potential. But a major hurdle that first needs to be overcome is the large percentage of the continent’s population who remain unbanked, particularly when it comes to facilitating payment for travel and tourism services.

Additionally, there is a need to digitise existing products and services to enhance market access and the experience for all travellers and improve operational efficiencies for businesses operating in the sector.

From a fintech perspective, it is crucial to identify ways to facilitate transactions between businesses in the tourism sector and payment oversight entities. One successful example of this is mobile money, which has gained significant traction across Africa with platforms like M-Pesa in Kenya leading the way. Integrating mobile payment solutions into traveltech platforms can cater to the large unbanked population and provide convenient payment options for travellers throughout the continent.

Cross-border remittances already play a critical role in many African countries, as they heavily rely on payments made from the diaspora. Fintech can help here by facilitating affordable and convenient cross-border money transfers for travel purposes. Blockchain-based solutions, for instance, can reduce costs, improve transparency, and accelerate the speed of transactions, benefiting both travellers and their families.

Fintech platforms can introduce micro-investing or savings features specifically designed for travel purposes. By enabling individuals to save small amounts of money regularly, these platforms can help people build travel funds over time. Fintech solutions can also address the challenges of financial inclusion in Africa by leveraging alternative data sources for credit scoring and providing access to credit for individuals with limited formal banking history. This can empower more people to travel and support the growth of domestic tourism within the continent.

To better incorporate fintech into existing traveltech solutions, online travel agencies and digital travel platforms should consider integrating fintech solutions to streamline payment processes, provide secure transactions, and even offer financial services like microinsurance or access to credit for travel expenses. Platforms like Airbnb, for instance, which have already disrupted the traditional accommodation industry could benefit from fintech integration to facilitate seamless and secure payment processes between hosts and travellers.

Africa’s rich natural and cultural heritage presents opportunities for sustainable tourism initiatives. Fintech can support impact investing in sustainable tourism by providing crowdfunding or investment platforms that connect travellers, local communities, and investors interested in supporting environmentally friendly and socially responsible travel projects. This could be realised through peer-to-peer lending or crowdfunding that supports the growth of alternative accommodation providers or local travel start-ups in Africa.

Loyalty programs are an essential tool for fostering customer loyalty and engagement in the travel industry. By leveraging fintech solutions, data analytics, and social impact initiatives, loyalty programs in Africa can enhance the customer experience. Personalised rewards based on local preferences can be integrated into mobile-first solutions, further driving customer retention, repeat bookings, and overall industry growth.

While there are significant benefits to integrating fintech and traveltech, it is crucial to address potential risks. Data breaches, identity theft, and unauthorised access to financial accounts are serious concerns that must be mitigated through robust security measures. Seeking guidance from mentors or professionals, implementing backup plans and alternative payment methods, prioritising data privacy, and complying with regulations are essential steps in managing these risks.

Regulatory compliance is another critical aspect to consider. Fintech and traveltech platforms must understand and adhere to relevant financial regulations, such as anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) requirements, to ensure compliance and build trust among users.

Moreover, the travel industry is susceptible to market volatility, geopolitical events, and natural disasters. To offset these risks, platforms must diversify their offerings, have contingency plans, and stay updated on market trends and advisories.

Access to capital can also be a challenge for fintech and traveltech solutions. Limited credit history or collateral may hinder entrepreneurs and businesses from accessing the necessary funds. It is important then to carefully evaluate fintech lending platforms and ensure alignment with financial capabilities.

Bridging the gap between fintech and traveltech holds immense potential for Africa’s travel and tourism sector. By incorporating fintech solutions into existing traveltech platforms, we can enhance payment processes, facilitate secure transactions, promote financial inclusion, and support sustainable tourism initiatives.

However, it is vital to address potential risks and challenges through robust security measures, regulatory compliance, and contingency plans. With careful implementation and collaboration, fintech and traveltech can work together to unlock the full potential of Africa’s vibrant travel industry.

Source:  Gadget

Uganda Airlines Launches Flights to Mumbai with Airbus A330neo

Uganda Airlines (UR) has kick-started the 41st week of the year by launching a new long-haul route between Uganda and India. The airline will fly non-stop between the two countries up to three times a week with its relatively new Airbus A330neo aircraft.

Inaugural flight to Mumbai

The flag carrier of the Republic of Uganda inaugurated its India operations on October 7, with a flight from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) to Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM).

The airline has two A330-800s in its fleet: 5X-CRN and 5X-NIL. The first flight (UR430) was operated with 5X-NIL. It departed EBB at 10:39 UTC and arrived at BOM around 17:19 UTC after a six-and-a-half-hour trip. The touchdown in India marked a significant milestone for Uganda Airlines, as Mumbai became its second intercontinental destination after Dubai.

UR430 was captained by Robert Wakhweya, a Chief Pilot at the national company. The return flight (UR431) departed BOM at 20:09 UTC and flew for about 6 hours and 24 minutes before arriving at EBB at 02:33 UTC. According to the airline’s booking website, flights will be operated three times per week with the following schedule:

Serving the Indian market

Although Uganda Airlines is the only airline operating scheduled flights on the EBB-BOM route, it becomes the fourth major East African carrier to serve Mumbai after Air Tanzania, Kenya Airways, and Ethiopian Airlines, which all operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from their respective hubs.

While Uganda celebrates 61 years of independence, the national carrier’s inaugural flight was welcomed by various stakeholders from the airline, as well as the Indian and Ugandan governments. Uganda Airlines Board Chairperson Priscilla Mirembe said to UBC;

“We have waited for this day for a long time, and we feel it is going to be very important for the economies of Uganda and India. There is a lot we can bring in terms of our resources and goods to India. As an airline, this is a big achievement because one of our aims is to connect Uganda to different parts of the world, especially as a landlocked country.”

Upon arrival, the stakeholders attended the India-Uganda Trade Summit in Mumbai to assess the opportunities for enhanced economic and social cooperation. During the summit, Uganda’s Minister of Works and Transport General Katumba Wamala called for the revision of India’s Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with Uganda to allow Uganda Airlines to fly to other cities within the South Asia country.

The state-owned airline is seeking to expand its presence in India by launching two more destinations: Delhi (DEL) and Chennai (MAA). While discussions between the relevant authorities take place, the airline’s country manager expects the services to commence within the next three months, according to Moneycontrol. With over 45,000 Indians in Uganda and thousands more Ugandans traveling to India for business, tourism, school, and health care, the South Asian country is a massive market for the airline.

Adding another destination in October

The next destination on UR’s list is Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS). Flights between Entebbe and Lagos will start on October 19, operating three times a week on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays with the A330-800. It will be the only carrier operating flights on this route.

Despite having two three-year-old widebodies, Uganda Airlines only serves two long-haul destinations. Apart from Dubai and Mumbai, the A330neos are also flown to Bujumbura (BJM), Johannesburg (JNB), Juba (JUB), and Nairobi (NBO). Other destinations are served with four CRJ900LRs.

Source: Simple flying

Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Diverts To London Stansted After RAF Interception

The Royal Air Force (RAF) quick reaction alert (QRA) team mobilized to intercept a Kenya Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner this afternoon. Flight KQ100 was heading from Nairobi to London Heathrow before RAF Typhoons arrived on the scene.

Already on the ground

The 787 is currently taxiing at London Stansted following the interception that took place over British airspace. The plane has vacated the site’s Runway 22. According to AviationSource News, there have been unconfirmed reports of bomb disposal units on their way to assist on the ground.

Ongoing updates

Lines of aircraft began to form as the situation unfolded, and Essex police started investigating the situation. Sky News has also shared that its understands that the Typhoon jets took over the interception from French aircraft.

Simple Flying reached out to London Stansted and Kenya Airways for comment. Stansted has since responded with the following update:

The aircraft, which was en route from Nairobi to London Heathrow, landed safely and was escorted to a remote stand with Essex Police in attendance. The incident has been stood down and the airport is open and flights are operating as normal.

Kenya Airways noted that it received an alert of a potential security threat and that its teams worked with security authorities in the UK and Kenya to carry out a risk assessment.

The below images posted on X show emergency service vehicles at Stansted Airport. The aircraft in question can also be seen. Essex police eventually shared that it found nothing of concern on the plane.

Stansted is the designated airport for dealing with security issues in the United Kingdom. The facility’s proximity to key RAF bases allows key resources to be swiftly deployed while the size of the location enables potential risks to be isolated from other areas.

According to Flightradar24 data, the 787 departed the capital of Kenya at 09:18 local time, after a 13-minute delay. The aircraft was flying at 17,000 over the English Channel before descending as it traveled north along the east coast of Kent. The aircraft continued to descend along the North Sea coast and began flying over Essex. The twinjet continued its descent onto Stansted, arriving at its designated stand by 14:52 local time.

More on the aircraft

5Y-KZG is the registration of the aircraft involved in the incident. The plane, nicknamed Magical Kenya, arrived at the Kenya Airways’ facilities in April 2015, new from Boeing’s facilities in Charleston. The eight-year-old has had a busy week, flying to the likes of Dubai, Guangzhou, Johannesburg, and Paris over the last week.

The aircraft forms a fleet of nine 787s in the carrier’s holdings. According to ch-aviation, the operator also holds two 737-300s, eight 737-800s, and 13 Embraer E190s.

Source: Simple flying

Dubai’s tourism surge ‘is reflection of strong economy’

Dubai’s tourism sector is predicted to reach levels not seen since 2019 by next year and a key driver behind the emirates’ success as a tourist and business destination is the UAE’s strong economic performance, says a report.

The remarkable post-pandemic performance of Dubai’s hospitality industry is a clear reflection of the UAE’s wider economic successes, said the Cavendish Maxwell report.

Despite the curveballs thrown by Covid-19 and recent global conflicts that disrupted travel worldwide, Dubai is defying the odds and emerging as the superstar of the tourism world.

In the first half of this year, a staggering 8.5 million globetrotters chose Dubai as their destination, breaking the city’s record for number of visitors. Fast forward to July 2023, and that number has surged to a jaw-dropping 9.83 million. Freshly released data by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism also reveals that in 2022, Dubai hosted 14.36 million international overnight visitors. By comparison, in 2021, just 7.26 million stayed overnight.

The city hasn’t just bounced back, it has soared past regional and global expectations. In fact, during 2022, Dubai reached 86% of its pre-pandemic visitor levels, beating even the most optimistic projections by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation for international tourist arrivals in 2023.

Inflation under check

While the rest of the world has been grappling with soaring inflation rates, the UAE has managed to keep things in check.

In 2022, inflation in the UAE stayed at a modest 4.8%, thanks in part to generous government subsidies, particularly for essentials like food and fuel. In comparison, the rest of the world experienced much higher inflation at 8.7%, according to the International Monetary Fund. Looking ahead, the UAE is on track to lower inflation to 3.1% in 2023 and return to a stable 2.6% rate in 2024.

Alongside keeping inflation in check, the UAE has also exceeded expectations in economic growth, despite increasing concerns about a global recession. In 2022, the UAE saw an economic growth rate of 7.6%, the highest in over a decade.

Impressive recovery

Although experts at Fitch foresee a slight dip to 3.3% for the UAE in 2023 due to oil production cuts, the country’s economy has been recognised globally for its impressive post-pandemic recovery.

“The tourism sector’s GDP growth is set to nearly double from 2021 to a remarkable 36.1%, and by 2024, it’s predicted to reach levels we haven’t seen since 2019. Back then, travel and tourism contributed a substantial 11.6% to the country’s GDP, raking in AED180.4 billion,” the report said.

Source: Trade Arabia.

Major airlines suspend flights after attack on Israel

Major international air carriers suspended or scaled back flights to or from Tel Aviv, while Russia banned night flights to Israel, after a surprise attack by Hamas militants over the weekend and a threat of escalating conflict raised safety concerns.

About 50% of scheduled Tel Aviv flights did not operate on Sunday and a third were cancelled on Monday as of Monday evening in Israel, according to Flightradar24, a flight tracking website.

U.S. air carriers United Airlines (UAL.O) and American Airlines (AAL.O) suspended direct flights to Israel after the Federal Aviation Administration urged airlines to exercise caution. Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) said on Monday it would cancel flights to and from Israel until the end of the month.

Many European airlines have also cancelled flights. Israel’s national carrier El Al (ELAL.TA) was the exception – adding more flights to bring reservists back from around the world to assist in the country’s biggest mobilization in history.

Fighters from Islamist group Hamas killed at least 900 people and abducted dozens of hostages in Saturday’s attacks, the deadliest such incursion in decades, prompting Israel to retaliate by pounding the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

Israel’s tourism sector, driven by beach- and party-goers in Tel Aviv and historical tours to sites like Jerusalem, is set to take a major hit as flight cancellations pile up. Tourism makes up 3.6% of total employment, according to OECD data.

U.S. cruise operators Royal Caribbean (RCL.N) and Carnival (CCL.N) said they had “adjusted” their itineraries in the Israel area.

“So far clients haven’t been cancelling, but they are being more precautious about travelling. We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about safety,” said Matt Berna, Americas President of Intrepid Travel, a group tour and travel company.

Regulators including the FAA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and Israel’s aviation authority urged airlines to use caution in the region’s airspace, but stopped short of suspending flights.

Russia, though, restricted flights from going to Israel before 0900 GMT due to what it called an “unstable political and military situation” and advised airlines to monitor risks during daylight.

Israel’s civil aviation authority asked airlines to “review current security and threat information” and changed some air traffic routes. It noted that delays were expected and advised airlines to carry extra fuel.

U.S. airlines normally run direct services from major cities including New York, Chicago, Washington and Miami.

Among the three U.S. carriers, United has the biggest exposure. In the quarter through December, Israel accounted for 1.9% of its planned global capacity, according to a Reuters analysis of Cirium data. American Airlines has the lowest exposure, with Israel accounting for 0.4% of its global capacity in the same period.

U.S. airline stocks fell Monday, with Delta closing down 4.6%, American down 4% and United off 4.9%.


In Europe, Air France (AIRF.PA), Portugal’s TAP and Finland’s Finnair (FIA1S.HE) suspended direct flights. Norwegian Air (NAS.OL) cancelled its flights from Copenhagen and Stockholm to Tel Aviv this week and Ryanair (RYA.I) cancelled flights through to Wednesday.

Britain’s easyJet (EZJ.L) halted flights to Tel Aviv on Sunday and Monday, and said it would adjust the timings of flights over the next few days.

Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) cancelled flights to and from Tel Aviv until further notice.

“Wizz Air is the most affected group with its operations accounting for some 9.4% of Israel’s total October capacity and … representing some 2.3% of the carrier’s total schedules,” Irish brokerage Goodbody said.

Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), also among the airlines most exposed to Israel according to Goodbody, cancelled flights to and from Tel Aviv through Monday.

Virgin Atlantic said it would continue to run some flights but that customers could rebook or request a refund until Oct. 15.

Shares in British airlines fell on Monday as the conflict led oil prices higher, with fuel one of the biggest costs for carriers. British Airways-owner IAG (ICAG.L), Wizz Air and easyJet all closed down around 6%.

Hainan Airlines (600221.SS), the only Chinese airline to fly between China and Israel, and other airlines flying from Hong Kong and South Korea cancelled flights to Tel Aviv.

Hainan said it would continue flights linking Beijing and the southern tech hub of Shenzhen with Tel Aviv.

EgyptAir flights between Cairo and Tel Aviv have been suspended indefinitely.

Source: Reuters.