Ben Gurion airport won’t resume air travel until mid-July

Despite some airlines announcing resumption of Tel Aviv flights in June, the Health Ministry gave the thumbs down, saying international travel arrangements not safe enough yet.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Health ministry officials who toured Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday put a damper on hopes that Israelis could whisk themselves abroad on a June vacation, saying the complex arrangements to resume air travel might only be ready in mid-July.

Health Ministry Deputy Director Prof. Itamar Grotto and the head of public health services Prof. Sigal Sadetzky toured with the airport’s officials and airline representatives as well as the steering committee of the national coronavirus commission, Channel 12 reported.

The committee is expected to decide when the skies will officially reopen, but given the difficulties, estimates are pessimistic for the short-term. Airport manager Shmuel Zakai said he expected flights to resume only in July, contrary to previous expectations and reports.

“This morning’s tour puts all the dilemmas and complexities of aviation renewal on the table,” Zakai said. “After all, none of us want morbidity to recur here in Israel and we all know that this virus came to Israel by air.”

Zakai said talks are ongoing with other countries that will be designated “green states” that have met standards for social distancing and safety of its hotels, public transport and other tourism facilities. Travelers coming from those green countries will not be obligated to self-isolate or be examined upon entering Israel.

“If we continue to work at the rate we are working, we will see dozens of flights from Ben Gurion Airport starting in mid-July and not before,” Zakai said, calling on people to “be real” and understand that the return of air travel is not a matter of days.

“At the end of June, we will only see a single flight here and there,” he said, adding that the original plan had been to open the airport in early June and allow flights only to some countries with low virus morbidity levels. The current destinations being considered for resumption of regular flights include Montenegro, Paphos, Berlin, Greek Islands, Georgia and Slovenia.

The airport has already been marked with safe distancing stickers on the floors, showing waiting passengers where to stand. Travelers will need to arrive at least four hours before their flight and will not be allowed in without a mask and having their temperature checked.

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A few airlines continue to provide regular service to Israel, including United Airlines with flights to the United States.

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