Arkia Israeli Airlines (IZ, Tel Aviv Ben Gurion) and Israir (6H, Tel Aviv Sde Dov) have suspended international operations until the end of March 2020 due to the restrictions imposed in relation to the COVID-19 epidemics, Israeli media have reported.

Israir said that it would continue to operate flights until March 15 but with the sole purpose of transporting Israeli citizens from abroad back to the country. After that, all international flights will be suspended for the remainder of the month.

Israir operates an extensive network of international scheduled charters from Tel Aviv to cities in Continental Europe, the Canary Islands, the United Kingdom, the CIS, and Zanzibar in East Africa.

For its part, Arkia said its suspension of international routes is effective immediately. It hinted that while a large-scale suspension of international operations is planned, some flights might continue to operate. The airline is also planning to furlough some 180 employees (around one-third of its total workforce).

According to the ch-aviation schedules module, Arkia's March international network is limited to services connecting Tel Aviv Ben Gurion with Athens Int'l, Batumi, Barcelona El Prat, Budapest, and Larnaca. Its schedules indicate that it plans to fly to Paris CDG, Amsterdam Schiphol, Bucharest Otopeni, and Chisinau after March 29, 2020.

Neither of the airlines issued a formal notice via their respective websites.

While cuts planned by El Al Israel Airlines (LY, Tel Aviv Ben Gurion) are relatively less extensive, the flag carrier is cancelling nearly four times more flights than Arkia and Israir together. The airline announced in a stock market filing that it expects a USD140-160 million revenue hit as a result of the epidemic but is hoping to offset at least a part of this loss with USD700 million in state-backed concessional loans. However, details have not been firmed yet, and the government would rather waive taxes and airport fees for the airline than offer it cash, Globes has reported.

Chief Executive of the flag carrier Gonen Usishkin told The Jerusalem Post that the airline would continue serving international routes "according to demand" due to its "national responsibility". However, frequencies will be reduced. The airline will also defer the launch of new services to Chicago O'Hare from March 22 to June 28, to Düsseldorf Int'l from June 1 to July 3, and to Tokyo Narita from May 4 to August 29.

In response to a growing number of cases of COVID-19 in Israel, the government has already implemented an obligatory two-week-long self-quarantine for all Israelis returning from abroad and is planning to enforce a similar measure for all foreigners.

According to an IATA travel advisory, Israel has also banned the entry for travellers from 17 countries and territories including China, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Austria, Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland. Also, all passengers arriving from abroad will have to enter a 14-day isolation period (this measure applies to all nationals, including Israelis). Flight crew are exempt from this measure.