The after-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the aviation industry to the core. Its latest victim, Israel aviation sector, is on the verge of collapsing. The country’s airline heads reported the perilous state of the country’s aviation industry to the Coronavirus Airport Commissioner on Wednesday, 21st July 2021.
The Israeli airlines have suffered tremendously during the pandemic; the airline heads even met the retired major general Roni Numa considering the seriousness of the situation. The ex-major general met El Al, Israir, and Arkia, including international airlines, to take their feedback ahead of the coronavirus cabinet meeting scheduled on 22nd July. The Israeli airline CEOs had also sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett calling on him to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation directly affecting the aviation industry and its employees.
The major concern for the Israeli aviation industry has been the lack of any clear guidance by the government. Other nations, loosening up the restriction and slowly uplifting the travel bans to recover the travel industry, has been taken as steps to the revival of the travel industry after the pandemic economic crisis. However, the lack of any clear guidelines and regulations towards easing the travel restriction has left Israeli airlines in a state of peril that whether the government will allow traveling or continue the restrictions. The expected busy season, August, a breather after almost two years of the travel ban, has been hoped to bring positive developments for the Israeli aviation industry. But, the government failing to guide the airlines through this disarray properly has created complicated situations for the airlines hoping to re-start their service.
Israeli government’s floating ideas for implementing seven-day mandatory quarantine rules for the incoming passengers and completely shutting down the airports, including Prime Minister Bennet and Prof. Nachman Ash’s (Coronavirus Commissioner and Health Ministry Director) repetitive motion to avoid any non-essential travel plans, has been anticipated to push the industry at the verge of collapsing. Compared to the European countries, which are reinstituting their travel restriction, slowly lifting their bans, re-modeling the travel and aviation industry, the Israeli government hasn’t given any clear concise for both incoming and outgoing travelers.
This has caused major despair for the airline companies that have been expecting to carry passengers from August in the hope of keeping the industry afloat despite the massive losses faced by the airlines in previous years. EI AI Airlines alone lost $531 million in 2020 and saw more than 70% of the revenue drop out due to the cancelation of the booked flights. The government also had to spend approx $535 million to bail out EI AI and Israir Airlines; further restrictions and travel bans would create even dreadful situations for the airlines beyond the point of return.
Government’s Strategy on Israel’s Aviation Sector
The initial strategy of the Israeli government was to bring back the green pass to reinstate air travel; Prime Minister Bennett and Health minister Nitzan Horowitz were planning to ask the cabinet to bring back the green pass, Health Minister told plenum on 19th July 2021. He had stated
“We are not closing the airport, and we are not considering closing the airport.”
The ministry, however, was building up strategies to limit traveling with other possible measures as thousand of Israelis flying abroad despite the fast spread of the new Delta variant of Covid-19 on a global level. Health Minister Horowitz also reported that 100 new cases enter the country every day through the Ben-Gurion Airport despite the strict rules of passengers submitting negative PCR tests before they board planes to the country.
In the interview, it was revealed that the government was focussing on tests and enforcing isolation on the incoming passengers to avoid the spread of the new variant of the virus. The ‘keeping the airports open’ plan of the Israeli government has been noted as the “living under the coronavirus routine,” but with maximum protection, through vaccination, mandatory safety measures, and restraining the spread with all the tools at the government’s disposal minimizing the harm as far as possible. Although the Israeli government doesn’t consider closing the airport at the moment as an option, they might consider it depending on the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
It is yet to be seen how tactfully the Israeli government will restrain the spread of the virus and keep the aviation industry afloat, which is on the brink.