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El Al Passenger Films Rockets Being Intercepted Over Tel Aviv




As the rocket assault on Israel continued last night, air traffic has again been impacted by the disruption. Flights overnight were forced to hold away from the airport until it was deemed safe to land. One passenger on an El Al flight from Brussels filmed the frightening scene from their window. Ben Gurion Airport has since halted all operations, and flights are being diverted to Ramon instead.

El Al 737-900 rocket attacks
A passenger captured the frightening scene from his window seat. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Diverted flights

Following yesterday’s overnight attacks, which saw aircraft diverted and multiple flights canceled, Israel has again come under fire overnight. Rockets fired towards the city of Tel Aviv and the main civilian airport of Ben Gurion have again caused problems for incoming aircraft, with planes forced to hold away from the airport as hundreds of rockets rained down.

One such flight was El Al flight LY332. The service had taken off from Brussels as normal at 20:00 local time last night. The trip to Tel Aviv usually takes less than four hours to fly, but this time passengers were left onboard for over five hours.

El Al 737-900 rocket attacks
The flight entered a holding pattern for around 45 minutes. Data:

On approach to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport, the Boeing 737-900, registered 4X-EHC, came in from the north. Initially tracking a steady approach towards TLV, at around 20 miles (32 km) out from the airport, the aircraft diverted to the east. A passenger filming from the window made it clear why this diversion was necessary.

The aircraft entered a holding pattern above the mountain city of Nablus for more than 45 minutes. At that point, the decision was made to divert the flight. It landed safely in Ramon Airport near the southern city of Eilat half an hour later.

Data from shows that the aircraft successfully repositioned to TLV airport at around 03:30 local time. No passengers were onboard this repositioning flight.


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Ben Gurion closed for inbound flights

Israel is well defended. Its ‘Iron Curtain’ is a sophisticated missile defense system that is successfully intercepting the majority of the incoming attacks. However, the danger posed to civilian aircraft cannot be overstated, and as such, the airport is now closed to inbound flights.


Under the new plan, any incoming flights to Israel will be diverted to the southern city of Eilat (ETM). Passengers will disembark there, and the planes will then reposition back to TLV without any passengers onboard. This will enable outbound flights to continue operating from the main airport.

El Al 737-900ER
El Al says it will continue to operate flights. Photo: El Al

The Airports Authority says that this is designed to minimize the number of passenger-filled planes on the ground at any one time. This is perceived to be the moment of the most risk to the airport and its passengers. Cargo aircraft and private planes are still being allowed to land at Ben Gurion for the time being.

Although it’s still possible to get a flight to Israel, albeit with some diversion in place, many airlines have already suspended flights for the coming days. The US big three carriers have canceled services for several days. UK flag carrier British Airways has announced a suspension of flights for today, with plans to review the situation going forward.

Israeli airline El Al has said it will continue to run flights as scheduled, but that it is allowing passengers to change any tickets booked before May 19th without a fee. It has also opened up its inflight WiFi for WhatsApp messaging free of charge, to allow passengers to stay in touch with family and friends.

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Aer Lingus Delays Manchester Transatlantic Flight Launch



Aer Lingus has postponed the start of its new transatlantic service from Manchester to New York and Orlando due to international borders opening later than expected. The routes, which were set to launch on July 29th, will now be set back to September 30th.

Aer Lingus A321LR
Aer Lingus has postponed its new U.S flights by a couple of months. Photo: Airbus

Transatlantic flights delayed to September

After setting a launch date of July 29th for its new transatlantic services from Manchester, Aer Lingus has been forced to delay the launch until late September. The carrier, citing “international borders opening later than expected,” has rescheduled the launch for September 30th. There are still travel restrictions in place in the U.S for visitors from Europe, although authorities are working on a solution.

The two U.S destinations on the cards this year are New York JFK and Orlando from Manchester Airport. The airline is also set to fly to Boston starting in the summer of 2022.

Aer Lingus A321LR
The airline’s service to Barbados will remain as scheduled for October. Photo: Aer Lingus

In a statement, Aer Lingus said,

“Due to international borders opening later than expected, Aer Lingus is postponing the start of new transatlantic services between Manchester Airport and New York JFK and Orlando. New services to Barbados will launch as scheduled.”

Aer Lingus also has plans to fly direct to Barbados. This service will remain unaffected by the postponement and will go ahead as planned on October 20th.

The airline added,

“Aer Lingus remains fully committed to its services from Manchester Airport, and looks forward to launching to New York and Orlando on 30th September, and to Barbados on 20th October.”

Passengers will be compensated

Disappointed travelers booked with Aer Lingus for the summer will be compensated by the airline due to the postponement. Passengers will be entitled to a full refund, voucher compensation (with an added 10% value), or re-booking on another Aer Lingus service.

The airline’s A330-300 fleet will handle flights to Orlando and Barbados. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Aer Lingus added in a statement,

“Our dedicated teams are contacting customers directly and offering a full refund, re-accommodation on an alternative service, or the option of a voucher with an additional 10 percent, for use across the Aer Lingus network over the next five years.”

Transatlantic flights for the A321LR

When announcing its new U.S flights, Aer Lingus noted it would be the first carrier to operate the Airbus A321LR between the U.S and the UK. With its initial launch date of July 29th, Aer Lingus was set to pip JetBlue to the post. JetBlue’s much-anticipated New York – London service is scheduled to launch on August 11th and will also involve the A321LR.

Aer Lingus A321LR
Aer Lingus will likely no longer be the first airline to fly the A321LR between the U.S and the UK. Photo: Aer Lingus

However, with the Aer Lingus launch now set back to the end of September, JetBlue is set to become the first airline to fly the A321LR between the U.S and the UK. According to ch-aviation, Aer Lingus has seven A321LR’s and is awaiting one more for delivery. On the other hand, JetBlue has just two in its fleet, with a further 13 on order.

Aer Lingus’ A321LR’s will offer 16 business class seats and 168 in economy. Simple Flying analyzed the rise of the A321LR on transatlantic flights, which now has over 10,000 transatlantic flights scheduled for this year and counting.

Are you excited about Aer Lingus’ transatlantic services this year? Where would you like to travel to most? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Southwest Airlines To Fly Over 9,000 737 MAX Flights In July



Southwest has scheduled the Boeing 737 MAX to operate over 9,000 flights next month, or about 9% of its total services. Some 84 airports will see the variant across 270 routes, the vast majority sub-daily. Showing how important the MAX’s fuel efficiency is versus Southwest’s NGs, the average sector length will be one-quarter higher than the carrier’s total average – helped by a big focus on Hawaii.

Las Vegas is the best place to see Southwest’s MAX 8s this July. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Wikimedia.

Southwest has 68 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, shows, nearly all of which are currently active. For now, its MAX aircraft are far overshadowed by 472 B737-700s and 207 B737-800s.

Southwest retired 36 B737-700s in 2020, with 30 to 35 expected to be retired annually over the next 10 to 15 years. Counteracting this will be its incoming MAX 7s and 8s, of which it has vast numbers on firm order.

Southwest is the largest user of MAX aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying.

Over 9,000 737 MAX flights in July

Southwest resumed flying the 737 MAX on a scheduled basis just over three months ago on March 11th, almost exactly two years after the type was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The 737 MAX 8 operated about 700 flights in that crucial March, with over 9,200 planned in July, analyzing data from Cirium, the aviation data company, indicates. This means about nine in every 100 Southwest flights will be the variant.

It is expected that Southwest will have about 300 MAX flights a day in July. Source: Cirium.

84 airports to see the MAX to July

Some 84 airports are scheduled to see the airline’s MAX aircraft in July, based on Southwest’s schedule submission. This is out of 114 in its network that month. That so many airports are down to see the variant shouldn’t be much of a surprise given how Southwest ‘flows’ aircraft around its network rather than there-and-back operations as often done elsewhere in the world. It also shows the network flexibility of the variant, crucial for a wider roll-out.

The most MAX flights? Las Vegas to San Diego. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Wikimedia.

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What airports will see the most MAX flights?

Las Vegas – Southwest’s third-largest airport in July – will have the most MAX flights, as shown below. The importance of Hawaii is clear, with both Honolulu and Kahului in the top-10 list, with Lihue (#18), Kona (#22), and Hilo (#33) also served.

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Phoenix
  3. Denver
  4. San Diego
  5. Honolulu
  6. Chicago Midway
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Kahului
  9. Houston Hobby
  10. Baltimore

As it currently stands, the state of Hawaii will have the second-highest number of MAX flights after California. Indeed, over four in ten of Southwest’s Hawaii flights are scheduled to be operated by the MAX, no doubt somewhat because of longer sector lengths and better fuel consumption versus the 738. This summer is a record for Hawaii to mainland service.

The top-40 airports for MAX flights. Image: GCMap.

Las Vegas to San Diego is the top MAX route

About 270 routes will see the MAX in July, with the vast majority to be less than daily. At the other extreme are the top-10 routes, as shown below. While some are very short, the importance of Hawaii is obvious. At 2,917 miles, Honolulu-Phoenix stands out – it is Southwest’s longest route.

  1. Las Vegas to San Diego
  2. Las Vegas-Phoenix
  3. Honolulu-Kahului
  4. Los Angeles-Phoenix
  5. Phoenix-San Diego
  6. Honolulu-Hilo
  7. Honolulu-Las Vegas
  8. Honolulu-Lihue
  9. Honolulu-Long Beach
  10. Honolulu-Phoenix

Have you flown the MAX yet or have a flight booked? Let us know by commenting.

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Air Arabia Abu Dhabi Expects To Operate 20 Planes By 2025



Abu Dhabi’s low-cost airline, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, has said that once air travel restrictions ease, it plans to expand its fleet to 20 Airbus aircraft. Air Arabia came into existence in July of 2020 following an agreement between Etihad Airways and Air Arabia to establish a low-cost carrier based at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi
Air Arabia Abu Dhabi only has three planes right now. Photo: Air Arabia Abu Dhabi

Using the Air Arabia business model, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi complements the Etihad Airways network by catering to the low-cost travel market. Air Arabia Abu Dhabi operates three Airbus A320-200s and expects its annual traffic to grow by between 20% to 25% over the next five years.

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Air Arabia Abu Dhabi wants 20 planes

When speaking with The National on Tuesday about its future growth, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi group chief executive Adel Ali said,

“With the caveat that based on what surprises we get from COVID-19 and unexpected things happening, we should really be able to grow the business … with 20 planes operating out of Abu Dhabi in the next five years.”

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi
Air Arabia Abu Dhabi group chief executive Adel Ali. Photo:

The joint venture between Air Arabia and Etihad Airways launched last summer during the height of the pandemic with a flight between Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) and Borg El Arab Airport (HBE) in Alexandria, Egypt. The low-cost carrier aims to bring tourists to Abu Dhabi and supply Etihad with long-haul connecting passengers from secondary markets.

Abu Dhabi to ease travel restrictions

Once the Emirate loosens its COVID-19 restrictions, Mr. Ali noted that Air Arabia Abu Dhabi would be looking to accelerate its growth, saying,

“We’re very satisfied, under the circumstances of COVID-19 and lockdowns everywhere, with the result that the company has produced for us in Abu Dhabi, which makes us optimistic about future growth once there’s normality and Abu Dhabi opens.”

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to start allowing quarantine-free travel from next month. The Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism said it plans to lift quarantine restrictions for inbound travelers from July 1, 2021. Unfortunately, this will not apply to people arriving from India, where they are still battling a second wave of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Mr. Ali said that Air Arabia Abu Dhabi is in constant touch with the authorities regarding travel rules. Once it has received confirmation about the quarantine rules being lifted, it will “roll out more activities.”

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi flies to 14 destinations from the UAE capital, including a new service to Trabzon Airport (TZX) in Turkey launching on July 13. When travel reopens, Mr. Ali said that he sees the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Arab counties, Eastern Europe, and the Indian subcontinent as attractive markets for the airline.

Abu Dhabi wants tourists

Fueling the optimism for growth and the Abu Dhabi hub is that the Gulf state has invested heavily in the tourism sector, hoping to attract foreign visitors. Mr. Ali believes that this will present new opportunities for the young airline, saying,

“Abu Dhabi itself has invested large amounts in infrastructure, developing hotels, tourism attractions, visitor parks, entertainment, the city has a lot to offer.” Adding, “This is an opportunity. There’s a lot of room to develop.”

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi plans to allow quarantine-free travel from July 1.Photo: Air Arabia Abu Dhabi

With the UAE managing to vaccinate more than 78% of its adult population for COVID-19, Mr. Ali believes that low-cost carriers like Air Arabia Abu Dhabi will help lead the recovery in air travel. he also thinks that initially, people will take trips closer to home and seek places that offer value for money.

Have you flown with Air Arabia Abu Dhabi? If so, please tell us how they compare with other LCCs.

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EU Poised To Lift Travel Restrictions For US Travelers



The EU could be about to lift restrictions on travelers from the United States. The decision on a proposal to add the US to the EU-wide white-list is expected today – June 16th. This would be a welcome next step in removing severe travel restrictions in place for over a year.

American United Tail
Airlines in the US are keen to get back to Europe and vice-versa. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

As reported by Bloomberg on June 15th, Portugal (which currently heads the EU) has recommended the addition of the US to the so-called ‘white list’ of approved countries. It proposes adding nine countries to the list – the US plus Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, and Taiwan.

This would allow travelers from the US to enter an EU country without quarantine requirements and travel freely within the EU. Entry would be controlled by individual countries, with the country of arrival responsible for issuing a digital vaccine passport. Crucially, the addition to the white-list would be an EU-wide rule – whereas, at present, only a few EU countries allow entry.

The inclusion on the white-list would also improve the situation for transit passengers. Currently, it is very difficult for US passengers to transit at a European airport – this restriction would also be lifted.

European airlines such as KLM and Air France will welcome the ability for passengers to transit their hubs. Photo: Getty Images

Decision expected soon

The proposal is expected to be voted on by EU government envoys in Brussels on Wednesday, June 16th. If there are no objections, it will be passed, and the US added to the white-list. But there could be objections or further delays.

While the possible inclusion is good news for US residents and airlines, the full benefit won’t be seen until the US reciprocates with its ban on entry from the EU.

It also won’t help UK-bound passengers or British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, either. The UK seems to be heading in the opposite direction, with a decision to extend domestic re-opening until later in the summer and no further progress with additions to its so-called green list for approved travel. It has launched a taskforce to consider a UK-US travel corridor.

Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, UK-US Travel Corridor
British Airways is pushing for a UK-US travel corridor. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Improving EU restrictions

There have been extensive and complicated travel restrictions in the EU since the start of the pandemic. This affects not just travelers from outside the EU but also intra-bloc travel. There have been attempts to simplify the restrictions, but different rules have been applied by different countries for much of the pandemic.

The travel industry is desperate for simplification to these rules, as well as extension outside Europe. From July 1st, travel within the bloc for vaccinated EU citizens should be possible using digital COVID certificates.

The current white-list for EU entry includes Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. China is also included, but only if it confirms reciprocal agreements with the EU. This proposed extension to the white-list would be a welcome next step in this opening up.

Are you frustrated by ongoing EU and US travel restrictions? What would the removal of restrictions on US citizens mean to you? Feel free to discuss this in the comments. 

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