Czech travel agencies are deciding whether to cancel planned trips to Israel. Some of them, who have scheduled departures already this week, are taking such a step.
On Saturday morning, militants from the Hamas movement launched a major attack on Israel. Both sides continue to shell each other, and the total balance of the third day of fighting climbed to over 1,300 dead and 5,000 wounded, including dozens of foreigners. The Israeli government has announced a total blockade of Gaza and European countries are evacuating their citizens.
“Most of our members are canceling flights to Israel for the next two weeks and are trying to negotiate with local carriers and hoteliers to move the tours to a later time. They are waiting for the next dates of sightseeing tours according to the development of the situation,” said Kateřina Chaloupková, executive director of the Association of Czech Travel Agencies and Agencies (AČCKA), to SZ Byznys.
According to her, hundreds of clients of AČCKA travel agencies were going to travel to Israel in the next two weeks. However, not all travel agencies are its members and some people travel abroad alone, so in total there may be thousands of people who planned to fly to the country soon.
However, according to Chaloupková, not all travel agencies approach the cancellation of tours. Airlines still fly to Israel, so any cancellation of the trip falls financially on the shoulders of travel agencies, which in such a case are not entitled to compensation from the airline.
Smartwings, Czech Airlines, Eurowings and the Israeli carrier Israir Airlines fly from Prague to Tel Aviv. Although some flights were canceled over the weekend and some even today, the carriers have over 20 flights scheduled to Israel during the week. “On Saturday, the departure from Václav Havel Airport Prague at 23:45 was cancelled, the Sunday departure at 10:40, the line arriving at 21:00 and departing at 22:15 was also cancelled. As for today, we register canceled arrivals at 1:05 p.m. and at 9:00 p.m.,” says Prague Airport spokesperson Klára Divíšková.
According to her, the airport therefore recommends that passengers be in contact with their carrier, monitor their websites and social networks, as the time of departure or arrival may change. “However, the following flights are still scheduled this week: Smartwings (8×), El Al Israel (12×), Israir (2×) and Bluebird (2×),” Divíšková said on Monday in the early evening.
Airlines have not yet canceled all flights to Israel, also because the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends on its website that tourists exercise great caution when moving around the country, follow the local media and respect the instructions of the security forces, but advises not to travel to Israel or neighboring countries (Syria, Egypt , Jordan, Lebanon) has not issued any recommendations yet.
It will send a warning to tourists in Egypt, where a local police officer shot and killed two Israeli tourists and their Egyptian guide yesterday. It also recommends registering in the Drozd system.
What is THRUSH
The project Voluntary registration of citizens of the Czech Republic when traveling abroad (DROZD) makes it possible to effectively organize assistance to Czech citizens who provide information about their planned stay abroad on a voluntary basis.
“Now we do not plan to modify the travel recommendations for the mentioned countries, but the Czech embassies are carefully monitoring the situation. If the situation requires it, we will promptly modify the recommendation. Today, in connection with the attack in Alexandria, we will send an information SMS to registered travelers through the DROZD system,” the communications department said when asked by the editors whether the office plans to extend the warning to tourists.
At the moment, the trips to Israel are only at the discretion of airlines and travel agencies, whether they will limit them at their own expense. For airlines, the situation may change the moment international insurance companies refuse to insure planes for flights to Israel.
Contracts with insurance companies usually have a condition that the insurance covers only areas that are not in a state of war. It depends on how they evaluate the situation, but in the short term it may affect flight cancellations.
Israel has declared that it is in a state of war, and insurance companies can therefore tell airlines that they do not pay insurance over such territory, according to former ČSA vice president Jiří Pruš.
“Contracts with insurance companies usually have a condition that the insurance covers only areas that are not in a state of war. It depends on how they evaluate the situation, but in the short term it may affect the cancellation of flights,” explains Pruša.
Given that airlines are still flying to Israel, some travel companies are not yet canceling flights and are rather considering how to change or shorten their stay so that it does not interfere with the problematic area.
For example, the AveTour company, which was supposed to fly with passengers to Israel, Palestine and Jordan this Thursday, is dealing with a difficult situation. As of two o’clock in the afternoon, she did not know whether she would cancel the tour (see notice), but later clarified on her website that due to the extraordinary circumstances, she offers alternative tour dates for next year with a financial discount or a full refund, and clients need not worry , that they will lose their money. “The above refers to the nearest tour dates departing on 12/10 and 16/10/2023,” AveTour clarifies.
The Kudrna travel agency, which is to travel with tourists for 20 days on the “Jordan Trail with an extension to Israel” on Saturday, is considering changing the route. “Now we’re figuring out how to do it. It is also complicated considering that the recommendation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not unambiguous. If possible, we will make the trip and possibly skip Israel, even though we have a route planned to safe places,” answered the man on the client phone line.
Cestovka Poznání does not currently have any clients in Israel, but it is already deciding what it will do in the month when it has a planned trip to the country. “We’ll probably cancel it, but we’ll keep an eye on it,” answered the lady on the phone line.
The SEN office is in a similar situation, even though it has scheduled departures until later dates. “The situation is serious, clients are asking questions, but so far it is a very fresh situation and we are waiting for a statement from the management. And since we currently don’t have anyone on site, we don’t have to deal with it right away,” said the man at the call center.
However, the travel agency Olivetour, which is supposed to fly to Israel with its clients on Thursday, is not canceling the tours yet. “For now, we expect to fly away because our programs are far from where anything is happening. We will move around the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea and in Jerusalem, i.e. safe destinations. I am in contact with the passengers, they have calmed down and no one has canceled the trip yet,” says company owner Daniel Haslinger, who defines himself as a veteran of trips to Israel, where he has been going for 20 years.
According to him, the current situation is “terrible”, but if the Israeli army can handle the situation quickly, it will not have a big impact on tourism. “I believe that the Israeli army will manage to resolve the situation within days or weeks and the conflict will be limited to the Gaza Strip. If it lasted more than a month, tourism would come to a standstill as it did in the wars of 2006 and 2014. But I don’t expect that,” adds Haslinger.