Published On: Thu, Jul 24th, 2014

FAA Lifts Ban on Israel After 80 Flights Were Canceled in First 24 Hours


At least 8, 000 Israelis have been stranded in Israel and overseas.

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The Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on U.S. flights going in or out of Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport late Wednesday evening.

An FAA press release stated: “Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation.”

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was clearly unhappy with the FAA, when, in a show of support, he boarded an El Al flight for Ben Gurion airport Tuesday night.

“I’m not trying to prove anything, ” Bloomberg said at John F. Kennedy International Airport before leaving. “I’m just trying to show that it’s safe and a great place to visit and Israel has a right to defend its people and they’re doing exactly what they should be doing.”

80 flights by foreign airlines to and from Israel have been canceled in 24 hours, according to the Israel Civil Aviation Authority. At least 8, 000 Israelis have been stranded in Israel and overseas, and it is not clear yet when individual flights will be renewed.

The press release explained that “the FAA initially instituted the flight prohibition on Tuesday, July 22, in response to a rocket strike that landed approximately one mile from the airport.”

“In my experience with the FAA, it’s motivated by professional considerations, not political ones, but that doesn’t mean that it pays no attention to politics, ” said Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies head and former El Al pilot Eran Ramot. “The FAA makes its decisions by the book. It stops flying a given distance from where a missile lands.”

Ramot added: “They are facing a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, it’s a war zone, and they want to keep the passengers safe. On the other hand, they don’t want to disrupt aviation traffic to an entire country. The FAA must also deal with the problem of the US passengers left stranded here by flight cancellations. It will also be interesting to see what the European airlines will do if the FAA decides to resume flights to Israel as usual. That’s liable to put them in an uncomfortable position.”

In addition to the three Israeli airlines (El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE:ELAL),  Arkia Airlines Ltd.”, and Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd.), eight foreign airlines continued to fly to Israel despite the ban: British Airways, Russia Airlines, Czech Airlines, Ukraine Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Bulgarian Airlines, and BlueBird Airways (based in the Greek island of Crete).

“The missile fired at Yehud has upset the applecart and created a domino effect, and the Israeli passengers are paying the price, ” a senior civil aviation sources said. Another source said that Israel was paying the price for the global hysteria resulting from the downing of the Malaysian jet by a missile over Ukraine a few days ago.

Israel Air Pilot Association chairman Yosi Shuv said, “In any war involving the home front, foreign airlines either stop flying to Israel or threaten to do so. While Israeli pilots reaching Ben Gurion Airport run to the security room and go on flying passengers as usual, the foreign pilots get cold feet.” He added, “Declaring an open and clear skies policy is not very wise. The problem starts when the skies get cold and are decorated with clouds of smoke. I’m trying to explain to members of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association that flying in Israel is safe even under the currently prevailing conditions, but they’re not listening. The halting of flights here by the airlines was predictable, and no surprise.”

Last week, the FAA issued wider guidance on where US commercial aircraft may fly:

FAA ban map

Ethiopia: UScommercial flights aren’t allowed to fly north of 12 degrees latitude in Ethiopia’s airspace. The USalso warns against using the Mandera Airstrip in Kenya, which is adjacent to Ethiopia and Somalia and may be fired upon by Ethiopian forces.

Iraq: All USair carriers and commercial aircraft flying at or below 20, 000 feet over Iraq are prohibited. On the ground, insurgent groups, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, remain active, as violence and instability reach levels not seen since 2007, according to the State Department.

Libya: USflights are prohibited from entering Libyan airspace. The State Department warns security in Libya is unpredictable with many military weapons, including antiaircraft, in the hands of everyday people. There are limited services available for UScitizens in the country.

North Korea: FAA prohibits USflights from entering airspace over Pyongyang west of 132 degrees east longitude. An advisory warns that North Korea is known for testing ballistic missiles without any warning. As recently as March, North Korea test-fired two missiles into the Sea of Japan. The country has launched a total of 90 rockets or missiles so far this year, according to the New York Times.

Somalia: All UScommercial aircraft flying at or below 20, 000 feet over Somalia is prohibited. The State Department says war-torn Somalia remains unstable and dangerous. It also warns against sailing too close to the country with pirate attacks reported as far as 1, 000 nautical miles off the coast. There is no USEmbassy in Somalia.

Ukraine: Airlines haven’t been allowed to fly over Crimea since April. After the crash of Flight 17, the FAA expanded the advisory, prohibiting any flight operations over eastern Ukraine where a separatist group is believed to have shot down the plane.

This report includes content published by Globes [online], Israel business news www.globes-online.com

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