El Al: Thai Political Unrest Causes Flight Cancellations

The cancellation of trips to one of the most popular destinations for Israelis during the holidays - Bangkok, Thailand - as a result of political unrest there will seriously hurt El Al Israel Airlines and tour operators.

An estimated 90,000 Israelis were scheduled to take El Al flights to Bangkok during the holidays in October.

According to Rami Levy, who heads the El Al commerce and flight connections department, a total of 520,000 Israelis will be flying abroad during the holidays in September and October.

Levy says bookings for October saw a rise of about 47 percent in demand for tickets with destination Hong Kong, and 26 percent to Mumbai.

The number of Israelis traveling to China has doubled.

There has also been a five percent rise in ticket sales to New York compared to last year, with about 16,000 Israelis expected to visit the city during the holidays.

El Al has added flights to meet the demand, with 23 percent more space allocated to the Far East, and 14 percent more space to North America.

The company has also increased space to Western Europe by about 10 percent, with about 60 percent of Israelis flying out of Israel for the holidays heading for Western European destinations.

About eight percent of Israelis traveling for the holidays are staying closer to home - choosing eastern Mediterranean destinations such as Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Cyprus.

Most Israelis are traveling with their children or as couples, and staying abroad for an average of 14 days, Levy said.

An estimated 230,000 foreign tourists are scheduled to arrive in Israel in September and October, 130,000 of whom are flying in from New York, London and Paris, a decline of 5 percent compared to last year.

Levy also said El Al and its subsidiary Sun D'Or will be increasing its flights to Uman, Ukraine for the Rosh Hashana celebrations at the tomb of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. The flights will depart between September 19 and 21, and return via Kiev between September 26 and 27.