The saga of so many Israelis trying to get back home from Europe, the United States and other locations continues without any end in sight.
Israel has yet again made last minute changes to their decree leaving thousands to continue to fend for themselves for many additional days and weeks without any guarantee when the airport will be open to accept them.
We hear that 600 will be allowed to land per day, then 2,000 — with the necessity for planes to land three hours apart. The thought of 5,000 per day sent the Health Ministry into a tailspin and they quickly shut down that option as they wouldn’t be able to process everyone.
Airlines were to be able to enter Israel as of February 21. We changed our flight so that we could take advantage of the opportunity to finally get home. Another COVID test, additional hotel time, additional extension for the health insurance… and then the wait to hear if the flight will really take off.
The day before — four calls to Delta in one day — each time they say they will get back to us. When finally reached, Delta USA did not receive any information regarding the cancellation of the flight on the 20th, even though we had already heard the news that this flight had been canceled. It seems that yet another system had been devised by the committee in Israel — one flight per day from the US to be shared between El Al, Delta and United. The days chosen for Delta are the 21st and 25th in the coming week. We immediately called Delta again to change our booking. Another wait of over an hour… to learn that the 21st was already a full flight, so without many options, we changed our flights to the 25th. (COVID test, new hotel, renew health insurance…. again)
Hoping against hope that a couple of seats might open up on the flight on the 21st (and it was never clear if the date mentioned was the day the flight leaves or rather when it lands) each call brought conflicting information. Once we heard there were only a couple seats left, the next time, only a first class seat (over $4000 one way) and the last time, that the flight was canceled, maybe. Will that flight actually be allowed to fly and land in Israel? (as of this writing the latest call with Delta says that flight has now been canceled)
After reading the many reports regarding the marvels of the vaccination process in Israel and how the country is opening up again, I have a suggestion that may allow everyone to come back and quickly. There should be a major vaccination site at the airport and all those returning should be vaccinated before leaving the airport. That will save the need for the special hotels, calm the fears about people with the virus variant, allow people to isolate at home and be more quickly on their way to the second vaccination and their reintegration into Israeli society.
All Israelis deserve to come home. The outrageous treatment we are receiving is demeaning, unfair, confusing and expensive. The effect on the travel industry is hurting the image of Israel with each passing day and the ever changing decisions without any rhyme nor reason.
Spoiler alert — due to my extended stay in Sarasota, I am putting together a guide to the airport hotels. We have already stayed at six area hotels and checked out and rejected many others.