Israel schedules two more rescue flights for Australia and New Zealand

The flights to repatriate Israelis follow others to Africa, Peru and Thailand.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that El Al would carry out two additional rescue flights to Australia and New Zealand to repatriate stranded Israelis. The decision comes on the heels of several recent rescue flights from Colombia and Peru that repatriated hundreds of Israeli backpackers.

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said in a statement, “From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the Foreign Ministry has shown that it will make every effort to repatriate any Israeli citizen who wants to come home. This is a key mission for our delegates around the world and our Foreign Ministry workers in Israel.”

Additional rescue flights from Thailand and India are scheduled to land in Israel on Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, a rescue flight carrying 206 Israeli citizens, mostly expatriate employees of Israeli companies and their families, departed from Abuja, Nigeria.

Organized by the Israeli Embassy in Nigeria, the flight repatriated hundreds of Israelis who were stuck in Nigeria as well as nearby West African countries. Several of the passengers had traveled from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, onboard a private jet to join the flight leaving from Abuja.

Many nations in the region grounded flights and closed down their airports for the foreseeable future.

El Al also rescued Israelis stranded in Peru mid-month. El Al donated $50,000 toward the flights and received monetary contributions from other Israeli companies.

El Al, whose planes and pilots are being utilized for the rescue flights, has struggled with the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. The airline, which had previously laid off 80 percent of its workforce, announced last Thursday that it was cancelling all commercial flights until April 4.

Last week, El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said that the airline had formally submitted a request for financial support to the Ministry of Finance. Usishkin said that a $300 million government loan would allow El Al to “recover and return quickly to regular operations.”

He said it would be up to the government to determine “whether it wants a national airline or whether it feels that aviation security is not an important or significant element of national security.”