New data on the impact of the Israel–Hamas war on air travel shows that the number of tickets to the Middle East has fallen from 13% above pre-pandemic levels to 13% below in the weeks before and after the start of the war, respectively.

Global air travel fell from 15% below pre-pandemic levels during the three weeks before the war broke out to 20% below in the three weeks after, according to ForwardKeys data.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said the “catastrophic, heartbreaking human tragedy” seen daily on TV screens had been bound to put people off travelling to the region, but it had also dented consumer confidence in travelling elsewhere.

As of October 6, bookings showed that global air travel in the fourth quarter of 2023 would reach 95% of its level in 2019, but as of October 27, the outlook has fallen back to 88%, he said. 

“The equivalent change in outlook for the Middle East is much more sobering, falling back 16% to 110%, from 126% before the war began,” he said.

ForwardKeys data shows that the change in air travel levels to other regions since the start of the war is less marked but still present. Travel to Europe was down 18% compared to pre-pandemic levels prior to the war, but it fell to 21% below in the three weeks after.

To the Americas, travel was down 3% down, and it fell further to 9%. Only Africa saw air travel increase, up from 17% below pre-pandemic levels to 15% below after the war began.

Middle Eastern travel

As many airlines, including Dubai’s Emirates, suspended flights to Israel in the days after the hostilities began, Israel has seen flights tumble to 178% below pre-pandemic levels, having been at 23% below that level before October 7.

Also impacted are Saudi Arabia’s flights, which were 75% above pre-pandemic levels in the three weeks prior to the war, boosted by the kingdom’s focus on tourism as part of its diversification plans, falling to 8% above since.

The next most heavily impacted was Jordan, with tickets now 61% below pre-pandemic levels, compared with 7% below before the war, followed by Lebanon, which went from 28% below to 73% below.

Egypt, Turkey and the UAE went to 25% below, 17% below and 7% below, respectively, falling from 10% above, 10% below and 1% above.

Air travel from destinations also fell. Tickets departing the Middle East fell from 3% below pre-pandemic levels to 12% below; from the Americas they fell by 10%, while Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa all fell by 2%.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)