Since the Israel-Hamas war started at the beginning of October, airlines have suspended flights not only to Israel, but also to some neighbouring countries. And while Israel’s tourism has come to a complete stop, its neighbours have tried to reassure tourists they remain “safe and welcoming”. Despite these efforts, data from travel analytics firm ForwardKeys shows the war has negatively impacted not only flights to and from the Middle East but also caused a global slowdown in the aviation industry.
The analysis compared flight booking in the three weeks before the beginning of the conflict with the three weeks after the beginning of the conflict, showing a 5 percentage points (p.p.) decrease worldwide, leading to a -20% level compared to pre-pandemic figures.
Travellers from the Americas altered their plans the most, with 10 p.p. fewer flight booking made by people from the two continents after the start of the war compared to before. The Middle East follows closely, with flight bookings from the region falling by 9 p.p. since the outbreak of the war, whilst Asia Pacific, Europe (including Israel) and Africa each slowed by 2 p.p.
From a destination perspective, the growth in bookings to all regions of the world has slowed down, apart from Africa, which has continued to recover towards 2019 levels. Flight bookings to the Middle East decreased the most, with a 26 p.p. difference before and after the conflict, while the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific only decreased by 6 p.p., 3 p.p. and 1 p.p. respectively.
“As of October 6th, bookings showed that global air travel in the last quarter of the year, Q4, would reach 95% of its 2019 level, but, as of October 27th, the outlook has fallen back by 7 p.p. and stands at 88%. The equivalent change in outlook for the Middle East is much more sobering, falling back 16 p.p. to 110%, from 126%, before the war began”, said ForwardKeys VP of Insight, Olivier Ponti.
Country specific, following Israel, to where most airlines have suspended all flights for the time being, the most affected country is Saudi Arabia, which has seen a 67% decrease in flight bookings after the start of the conflict. For Israel, the 155% decrease indicates that in addition to there being no new bookings, there have also been cancellations, depleting the existing stock of bookings.
Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations have also suffered quite heavily from the conflict, with 54 p.p., 45 p.p., 35 p.p. and 25 p.p. reductions in flight bookings respectively. Sitting a little better than the rest are Türkiye and the UAE, with only 8 p.p. and 7 p.p. fewer bookings respectively.
“This Israel-Hamas conflict is a catastrophic, heartbreaking, human tragedy that we are all seeing daily on our TV screens. It is bound to put people off travelling to the region, but also has dented consumer confidence in travelling elsewhere too”, Ponti explained.