Istanbul.
Istanbul. Photo by Bloomberg
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More signs that Israelis are starting to return to Turkey: Turkish charter-flight companies doubled the number of flights to and from Israel over the Passover holiday, due to the heavy demand.

Charter companies had planned 10 flights to and from Ben-Gurion International Airport and the Turkish resort city of Antalya this month, but instead will be scheduling 20 such flights. There was at least one flight on that route every day last week.

An estimated total of 3,000 Israelis are expected to visit Antalya in April - a figure that is higher than it has been in the past few years, although still nowhere near what it was before diplomatic relations soured between the two countries.

In 2008, before Operation Cast Lead sparked harsh criticism by Turkey of Israel, 560,000 Israelis traveled there. Since then, Israelis have accounted for only 0.05% of all tourists to Turkey - down from 3%.

In the wake of the deterioration, Israelis stopped booking visits to Turkey outright, leaving tour operators who had reserved hotel rooms in advance badly burned. Charter flights were suspended altogether last September due to a lack of demand. They renewed this month.

Most of the Israelis visiting Turkey this month are Arabs or Russians, said KTA International CEO Shai Pardo, whose company represents the major Turkish charter airlines in Israel.

"We were surprised by the high demand, and added extra flights. The test will be whether we have demand for the rest of the flights later this month, after the Passover holiday," he said.