Israel’s national airline El Al is cancelling Saturday night flights between the UK and Israel this summer so they do not clash with Shabbat.
The airline has axed all its scheduled Saturday evening flights over the next three months between Heathrow and Tel Aviv with immediate effect.
Passengers who have already booked are being offered refunds and will be forced to make other arrangements.
The move comes on the orders of the company’s new Orthodox Jewish owner and controlling shareholder, Kenny Rozenberg, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news.
El Al does not fly during Shabbat but has long provided a popular Saturday night flight from the UK after it ends.
However, the flights, which leave at 10.20 pm, have now been axed over the next three months as to make the scheduled departure time, passengers were required to check-in from 6.20 pm - shortly before the end of Shabbat, which falls later in the summer months.
Passengers who have already purchased tickets for the now cancelled flights will be given the option of a Friday flight or a refund.
In a statement, El Al said: “Due to the change in the times when Shabbat ends with the transition to summer hours, and due to the restrictions on departures from Heathrow Airport, we have had to adjustments to the flight schedule,
“We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers as a result.”
Rozenberg has been El Al’s controlling shareholder since 2020 when he reportedly invested NIS 360 million [£78 million] to keep it afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, and took over as owner of the company from his son Eli in April.
Managing director of West End Travel, David Segal said “very few” customers had asked to reschedule their Saturday flights and packages.
He added: “Yes, it’s an inconvenience for some. But El Al have in the past done a terrific job accommodating to customers and I am certain they will offer alternative flights in the days to come. It should also be mentioned that Saturday is not the most convenient or popular day for travel anyway. The biggest days are Thursdays and Sundays.”
Anthony Gothold of Travelink said that customers could always book with alternative companies such as Virgin or British Airways if they wanted "El Al is a private company and therefore entitled to run their company how they wish. It is unhelpful and inflammatory for the media to turn this into some sort of political statement and make the current difficult domestic situation in Israel worse."