British Airways‘ flight from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv is returning to the UK after a decision not to land at Israel’s main airport. The Airbus A350 had flown almost all of its 2,233-mile journey before turning around.
BA has now suspended flights on the route until further notice, as has Virgin Atlantic.
A spokesperson for British Airways said: “Safety is always our highest priority and following the latest assessment of the situation we’re suspending our flights to and from Tel Aviv.
”We’re contacting customers booked to travel to or from Tel Aviv to apologise for the inconvenience and offer options including a full refund and rebooking with another airline or with British Airways at a later date. We continue to monitor the situation in the region closely.”
The move comes after an aviation membership organisation, OpsGroup warned: “Israel is now an active war zone. As such, all lessons learned regarding civil operations in conflict zones over the last nine years since MH17 need to be applied.”
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over occupied eastern Ukraine in 2014 by a Buk anti-aircraft missile that belonged to the Russian army. All 298 passengers and crew died in the attack.
Ops Group added: “The ultimate sentiment from MH17 still echoes: ‘What were they doing flying over a war zone?’ We truly hope the same question doesn’t need to be asked in Tel Aviv airspace this week.”
Most UK airlines have already suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv. El Al continues to operate on the Heathrow-Tel Aviv route. Tuesday’s final Virgin Atlantic flight before its suspension arrived at the Israeli airport at about the same time as the British Airways crew decided to return to London.
On Tuesday Finnair cancelled all its flights to and from Tel Aviv until 30 March 2024 because of “the unstable situation in Israel”.