British Airways returns to Tel Aviv – with a downgraded service

Return trip: British Airways starts flying to Ben Gurion International Airport on 1 April 2024 (Simon Calder)
Return trip: British Airways starts flying to Ben Gurion International Airport on 1 April 2024 (Simon Calder)

British Airways will resume flights to Tel Aviv from 1 April 2024 – but with a much-reduced service from London Heathrow.

Before the attack by Hamas on Israel on 7 October 2023, British Airways flew two long-haul Boeing 787s each day between the UK and Israel.

When flights to Tel Aviv start again, a single short-haul Airbus A320 will operate four days a week.

The configuration will be as for European flights, with the business class offer comprising the middle seat folded down – as opposed to a flat bed in the long-haul premium offering.

A BA spokesperson said: “We’ve taken the commercial decision to move Tel Aviv to our short-haul network when we restart our flights on 1 April. This aligns these flights with other similar length flights we operate, and we’ll keep this decision under review.”

Rob Burgess, editor of the frequent-flyer news site Head for Points, said: “There’s nothing unusual, sadly, about BA using short-haul aircraft on such long routes. BA Euroflyer is operating from Gatwick to Sharm el Sheikh with a short-haul aircraft, Larnaca has always been short haul, and Cairo and Amman have used standard short-haul aircraft since BA retired the ex-BMI ‘midhaul’ fleet.”

Initially the BA flight from London will land en route at Larnaca in Cyprus for a crew change. Passengers will not need to leave the aircraft during the stop, which is timed for 45 minutes.

A new crew will join for the remaining 210 miles from Larnaca to Ben Gurion International Airport, outside Tel Aviv. The return flight to London Heathrow will operate nonstop.

The crew switch is intended to allow maximum flexibility if Tel Aviv is considered too risky to land. With a nonstop trip from London, the options for returning to base would be constrained by flight hour limits.

This month a number of major airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa and Ryanair, have resumed flights to Tel Aviv from airports in Continental Europe.

Wizz Air is flying from Luton to Israel once again, as well as links from Budapest, Larnaca, Milan, Rome, Sofia and Warsaw.

The Israeli national airline, El Al, has flown between London and Tel Aviv largely uninterrupted. El Al operates a full-service, long-haul configured Boeing 787 from Heathrow and a low-cost Boeing 737 link from Luton.

Britain's biggest budget airline, easyJet, has not yet announced a resumption of its flights from the UK. The carrier said the option is being kept under review. Seats from Gatwick to Tel Aviv are on sale from the start of the winter season, on 27 October 2024.

The Independent has asked Virgin Atlantic about its plans to resume flights from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv.