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Lufthansa halts all flights to Israel over virus restrictions

Airline giant Lufthansa said Thursday it was cancelling all flights to Israel until March 28, after the Jewish state barred entry to almost all non-resident arrivals from five European nations including Germany.

Flights to Tel Aviv and Eilat by Lufthansa and subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines will be cancelled from Sunday, March 8 until the end of the winter timetable on March 28, the group said in a statement, while some flights will be halted on Friday and Saturday “for operational reasons”.

Israel on Wednesday barred entry to almost all non-residents of the Jewish state arriving from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland.

Earlier that day, it had already ordered citizens and Israeli residents from the same countries into quarantine.

The measures come on top of restrictions previously imposed on arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Italy.

Lufthansa has already announced that it will ground 150 planes, including 25 long-haul aircraft, and slash its flight plan by 25 percent over the impact of the virus.

On Thursday, it said that would entail cancelling 7,100 European flights in March, including 3,750 via Germany’s biggest air hub Frankfurt and 3,350 via Munich.

Many of the cancellations will fall on high-frequency domestic services to cities like Berlin and Hamburg.

Meanwhile “a second focus of the route cancellations” was Italy, with cities including Milan, Venice and Rome affected.

Passengers are advised to check the Lufthansa website before departing for the airport, as “in addition to domestic German and Italian connections, other flights to Scandinavia, Great Britain, the Baltic States, Poland, Russia, France, Spain, Portugal, etc. are affected,” Lufthansa said.

Among long-haul services, Lufthansa has cancelled all routes to virus hotspots mainland China and Iran until late April and reduced capacity on routes to Hong Kong and Seoul.

The group has also instituted a hiring freeze.

“It is not yet possible to estimate the impact on earnings” from the virus measures, Lufthansa said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned Thursday the total revenue impact on the industry could be in the range of $63-$100 billion.