On Saturday, October 7th flights departing from Warsaw, Poland and Istanbul, Turkey were on course to Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel, before getting instructions to redirect and land immediately in the neighbouring island of Cyprus . Since then, Hamas has fired over 3,000 missiles towards Israeli territory, suggesting that airspace is far from safe for civilian air travel .
As of Saturday afternoon, 16% of flights towards Israel were cancelled, while 23% experienced delays . Over the course of the day, the number of flights being cancelled increased, following the increased intensity of the conflict.
The response varied by airline. Many European carries like Lufthansa, KLM, Transavia, and Aegean Airlines have suspended flights to Tel Aviv until Monday. Airlines, however, did not cancel outgoing flights from Ben Gurion airport, many intending to get their airplanes and crew out of harm’s way. North American airlines announced to temporarily suspend air travel to and from Israel, until further notice . The national airline, El Al, continues to operate, but is offering no-cost cancellation and rescheduling options to passengers .
Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport is forced to remain open, as it is Israel’s primary and only international airport. General aviation aircraft are prohibited from taking off or landing at the airport, and commercial airlines must follow procedures to avoid dangerous areas of conflict.
With some limited exceptions, only Israeli Airlines will be operating flights in Israel, due to their mandatory missile defense system.
Since 2004, all Israeli aircrafts fly with a missile defense system, which can defend against shoulder-launched heat-seeking missiles called MANPADS .
With Prime Minister Netanyahu declaring total-war against Gaza, missiles and remotely operated weapons will turn the aerial space into a warzone . While Hamas was able to take Israel by surprise and catch their defenses unprepared, now both sides of the conflict are alert and eager to defend their territory. This will only escalate the frequency and intensity of attacks, suggesting that Israeli airspace will be primarily used for military purposes exclusively.
While the conflict is still on going, it is likely that air travel is to be disrupted either due to safety considerations for civilians and airline crews, but also due to the uncertainty creating insecurity for airline carriers as business entities. Indeed, logistics and global transport systems are being affected by the conflict, but at the root of this issue are humanitarian considerations that should prevail.
 Aviacionline, Redacción. 2023. “Multiple Airlines Divert and Cancel Flights Bound for Tel Aviv Following War Outbreak in Israel.” Aviacionline.com. October 7, 2023.
 Chappel, Bill, Juliana Kim, Larry Kaplow, and Daniel Estrin. 2023. “All-out War: Israel Pounds Gaza after Militants Infiltrate in a Large-Scale Attack.” NPR. October 7, 2023. https://www.npr.org/2023/10/07/1204436940/palestinian-militants-launch-rockets-into-israel.
 Goodkind, Nicole. 2023. “Airlines Cancel Flights to Israel amid Attacks | CNN Business.” CNN.
October 7, 2023. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/10/07/business/israel-tel-aviv-attacks- airlines- cancel/index.html.
 Schupak, Adam. 2023. “Flights Cancelled as Attacks Continue in Israel.” Aeroxplorer.com.
October 8, 2023. https://aeroxplorer.com/articles/flights-cancelled-as-attacks-continue-in-israel.php.