After a more than a decade-long hiatus, nonstop flights to the Israeli commercial hub of Tel Aviv set to take off from Atlanta once again May 10.
Delta Air Lines Said Friday it would reinstate the flight, launched 16 years ago but postponed in 2011 over the objections of the local Israeli chamber and business community. Prior to that, multiple companies pointed to the flight as a selling point in choosing Atlanta as their US headquarters.
The return will fulfill a long-held goal of Israeli diplomats posted in Atlanta, as well as business boosters and entrepreneurs that have continued to flock from the “Startup Nation” to the growing tech hub of Atlanta even without the direct air link.
Delta previously served Tel Aviv nonstop from New Yorkgiving Atlantans a one-stop connection via their hometown airline, but proponents have said a nonstop option would provide both a practical and symbolic boost to trade and investment ties.
“These direct flights will serve to further strengthen the close relations between Israel, the state of Georgia and the Southeastern US and we are confident that they will have a significant and positive impact on our relations in so many fields including political, economic, academic and cultural exchanges,” said Anat Sultan-Dadonconsul general of Israel to the Southeast US, in a statement.
Yael Golanthe Atlanta-based director of the Southern region for the Israel Ministry of Tourismsaid during a forum with Global Atlanta and the Pendleton Group in 2021 that the travel landscape had changed drastically in the decade since the Atlanta flight was grounded.
“Right after the flight stopped, the numbers weren’t big enough to advocate for [its return]but we’ve doubled the number of our passengers from North America,” Ms. Golan said at the time.
As a region, North America sent more than 1.2 million of the 4.5 million foreign tourists that flocked to Israel, a nation of just 8 million people, in 2019, the year before the pandemic shut down global travel.The South was a big part of that, given its outsized role in the faith-based travel segment, she said.
Officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2016 made regaining the Israel flight a strategic priority, and talks with both Israeli and American carriers continued. Ms. Golan said that the success of a 2017 flight launched from Miami to Tel Aviv on El Al Israel Airlines showed evidence that sometimes “supply creates demand.”
In a news release, Ms. Golan noted that 250,000 visitors arrived in Israel in June alone, close to reaching 2019 levels.
“With this flight providing an easier travel experience for many Americans, we’re hoping to grow travel from the southern United States to new records,” she said in the release.
On the business front, the Georgia Department of Economic Development will have another arrow in its quiver when it comes to recruiting investment from Israel, which has outperformed many other countries on a per capita basis as a source market for Georgia foreign-direct investment. The state operates a trade and investment office in Tel Aviv.
“The most important factor in building a successful business is connectivity, and that’s doubly true for international business,” said the department’s Commissioner –Pat Wilsonnoting that groups like Delta and the consulate are part of what makes Atlanta’s global connections “simple and seamless,” adding: “We are excited about this newly strengthened bridge between Georgia and Israel and the opportunities that will undoubtedly come as a result.”
The Atlanta-Tel Aviv routing will operate three times a week, on a Wednesday, Friday, Sunday schedule. Flights departing from Atlanta at 2 pm will arrive next morning at Ben Gurion International Airport at 9:15 am Flights from Israel will depart at 11:30 am and arrive the same day at 5:55 pm Delta will use an Airbus A350-900, with 32 seats the Delta One business-class cabin, 48 in Delta Premium Select , 36 in Comfort Plus and 190 in the main cabin, for a total capacity of 306.
Atlanta-based Conexx is planning to lead a delegation to Israel (and the United Arab Emirates) in November.
Delta also announced Friday would launch a brand new flight to Cape Town, South Africa.
Read more on the Tel Aviv flight and efforts to reinstate it over the years in the Global Atlanta archive.