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FAA Lifts Ban on Flights to Israel’s Main Airport by U.S. Airlines

Jul 24, 2014 8:30 am

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Considering last week’s actions in Ukraine, airlines and authorities should err on the side of caution in conflict zones.

— Jason Clampet

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Passengers arriving at Tel Aviv airport's international terminal. Flickr


The U.S. lifted an almost two-day ban on flights to Israel’s busiest airport.

Flights by U.S. carriers in and out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International airport were to be allowed to resume at about 11:45 p.m. New York time, the Federal Aviation Administration said tonight in a statement. The agency had ordered U.S. airlines yesterday to avoid the airport, citing the hazard from rockets fired by Palestinian militants.

Because the flight cancellations have the effect of isolating Israel from global travel networks, the actions by the airlines and FAA assumed a foreign-policy dimension. Israeli Transport Minister Israel Katz had said a suspension of flying would “give a prize to terror.”

Traffic at Ben Gurion airport dwindled as large carries including Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG suspended flights, as well as EasyJet Plc, the biggest discount operator serving the airport. Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines parent United Continental Holdings Inc. also suspended flights until further notice.

Israel, where tourism accounts for about 7.3 percent of the nation’s economy, had opened a smaller southern airport near Eilat to international flights as an alternative, though the 6,234-foot (1,900-meter) runway is too short to accommodate long-haul jets. El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. had said it would add an unspecified number of trips to Ben Gurion airport to accommodate stranded fliers.

The European Aviation Safety Agency also had recommended the suspension of service to Tel Aviv, guidance that was ignored by British Airways. Competitors including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM Group suspended flights.

Delta diverted a flight to Paris yesterday that was en route to Israel after learning of the missile strike near the airport, before the FAA announced its first ban. The incident occurred less than a week after a Malaysian Air passenger jet was downed by a missile while flying over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Levin in Washington at alevin24@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Romaine Bostick at rbostick@bloomberg.net. 

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