With tensions having escalated in Israel, the US The Department of State, on October 11, raised the Travel Advisory Level for Israel and the West Bank to Level 3, advising its citizens to ‘reconsider travel’ and kept it’s advisory for Gaza at Level 4, advising it’s citizens not to travel.
According to Reuters, Air France-KLM said its commercial flights had been cancelled but France had organised special evacuation flights, while Lufthansa and British Airways (BA) parent IAG said they were also monitoring events, with the British government saying it would organise flights to get its citizens out of Israel and ordering families of its diplomats to leave in the wake of the war with Hamas.
Commenting on what South African travellers need to be aware of if travelling to the country, Association Of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata) CEO Otto de Vries said staying well-informed is of utmost importance when travelling in potentially volatile regions.
“We strongly recommend regularly checking travel advisories issued by government agencies, local authorities, or reliable news sources and associated apps. These advisories offer real-time updates on any potential risks that should be considered,” he said.
De Vries said that if you have made a booking through a reputable travel agency, your dedicated travel professional will have access to the latest information concerning the affected region and they will ensure you are kept up-to-date on the situation as well as the rebooking policies of the suppliers.
“In the event that your travel plans are imminent, and a situation arises, your travel professional will discuss the available options in accordance with the supplier’s policy. This ensures that you are equipped with all available options when deciding on a way forward with your travel booking,” said De Vries.
He highlighted that if you are already at your destination and an unexpected situation occurs, it is imperative that you immediately contact your travel professional.
“Additionally, follow the advice provided by local authorities. It’s advisable to reach out to the Consulate or Embassy representing your country of residence, if available in your destination.
“If you have travel insurance, we recommend contacting your travel insurance adviser to ascertain if your policy includes support for the specific scenario you are facing,” said De Vries.
He added that it is also crucial to ensure that your electronic devices are always fully charged, and before your departure, share your travel itinerary with family or close friends, as travel agencies often request an emergency contact for the duration of your trip.
De Vries also advised to always exercise discretion and avoid getting involved, in or taking sides in, local conflicts or protests.
The CEO said if there is a need to change travel plans and bookings, then travellers should make it a priority to get in touch with their dedicated travel professional when considering amendments.
“Your travel professional possesses the necessary information, including the airline or supplier’s rebooking policy, and is equipped to guide you through the process. Understanding the conditions outlined in the policy provided by the supplier is of paramount importance.
“Your travel professional is there to clarify any uncertainties and ensure that you are updated throughout the process, affording you the necessary peace of mind,” he said.
Also commenting from a bookings agent perspective, Lynette Machiri, Flight Centre Customer Experience Team Leader, said that many providers of travel products have established rebooking policies, and they strongly encourage travellers to reach out to their travel agents for support in adjusting their travel arrangements.
“Flight Centre is actively assisting customers with affected bookings, facilitating changes, and, where applicable, processing refund requests with the respective suppliers,” said Machiri.