Airlines scrambled to cancel flights into Israel early Saturday after Palestinian militants launched a surprise attack, firing thousands of rockets from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns during a Jewish holiday.
As of Saturday afternoon, about 16% of flights were canceled and 23% were delayed to Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel’s international hub, located just outside of Tel Aviv.
Some Israel-bound flights were diverted to other airports around the globe. United Airlines flight 954 left San Francisco International Airport on Friday night and diverted over Greenland about seven hours into the more than 13-hour-long journey, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. The flight would later return to San Francisco.
“The safety of our customers and crews is our top priority,” the airline said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the situation and we are adjusting flight schedules as required.”
FlightAware data also show Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have canceled Saturday and Sunday Israel-bound flights scheduled to depart from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
German airline Lufthansa also announced on Saturday it would drastically reduce flights to Tel Aviv.
“Against the background of the current security situation in Israel, Lufthansa Group Airlines is reducing its flight program to/from Tel Aviv this Saturday,” representatives of the airline said in a statement.
There will still be one flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt this Saturday, the airline said, but all other flights have been canceled.
“We are continually monitoring the very dynamic security situation in Israel and are in close contact with the authorities. The safety of our guests and crew members has top priority for Lufthansa,” airline representatives wrote.
Popular Israeli news outlet Walla! News reported on Saturday Swiss Air, Austrian Airlines and Turkish Airlines had canceled flights to and from Israel.
El Al, Israel’s national airline, said customers “may suspend flights without charge or cancel with a voucher without costs,” and set up an emergency hotline for customers who need to change their flights.