13 October 2023

UK fails to arrange Israel repatriation flights as other nations succeed

13 October 2023

Two attempts by the UK Government to organise flights to repatriate British nationals from Israel have failed, multiple aviation sources told the PA news agency.

This is despite flights to the UK arranged by the US and Australia going ahead.

A UK-organised flight was initially planned to arrive at Gatwick Airport on Friday morning, but that was cancelled amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

An attempt to arrange a flight landing at the West Sussex airport at 5.40pm on Friday also failed.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “This is a fluid situation, and we are currently working to ensure the flight can proceed as soon as possible.”

Several other flights from Israel due to land in the UK on Friday are going ahead.

These include scheduled services to Heathrow and Luton airports by Israeli airline El Al, and a repatriation flight to Heathrow for Australian nationals organised by the country’s government and operated by Qantas.

Three flights from the southern Israeli city of Eilat operated by Czech airline Smartwings landed at Stansted Airport on Thursday night – chartered by advocacy organisation Tzedek Association on behalf of the US government – carrying mainly US citizens.

Several airlines have suspended their flights between Israel and the UK, such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Wizz Air.

When the FCDO announced on Thursday it would organise flights, it said the first one would operate that day and they will be available to “British nationals, including dual nationals, and dependants if travelling with a British national normally resident in the UK”.

Each ticket will cost £300, which “reflects the costs of operating the flight”, according to the FCDO.

The children and other dependants of British diplomats will also be given seats as “we have a duty of care to our staff”, it added.

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