F.A.A. Halts Flights From U.S. To Israel For 24 Hours
The Federal Aviation Administration has halted all flights from the U.S. to Israel for 24 hours in response to a rocket attack near Ben Gurion Airport:
Major American airlines stopped flying to Israel on Tuesday after a rocket fell near Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv, and after the Federal Aviation Administration told the carriers not to fly to Tel Aviv for 24 hours.
All three United States carriers with service to Israel – Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways – said they had temporarily suspended their flights. The move highlighted the impact of the conflict in the Gaza Strip on the Israeli economy at the height of the summer tourism season.
It also came at a time when airlines around the globe appeared to be much more sensitive about the risks of flying over conflict areas, following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine last week.
For the moment, European airlines are still operating their flights. British Airways, for instance, said it “continues to operate as normal” and is monitoring the situation closely.
Delta suspended its service between Kennedy International Airport and Tel Aviv “until further notice” and did not indicate when it might resume flights. US Airways said that it canceled Tuesday’s flight from Philadelphia and that it was in contact with federal authorities. United canceled its two daily flights from Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday.
Delta had a flight in the air on its way to Israel when the decision was made. Flight 468, a Boeing 747 with 273 passengers and 17 crew members aboard, was diverted to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris after the rocket fell in Yehud, a Tel Aviv suburb just north of the airport. According to Flightradar24.com, the plane was flying over Greece, about two hours from its destination, when it turned around and diverted to Paris.
An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Israel had had no advance notification by the airlines of their intention to cancel flights. The official insisted that it was safe to fly to Israel.
“If they wanted to hand the terrorists a prize they couldn’t have chosen a better way,” the official said, adding, “If it was safe so far, why would it not be safe now? Nothing has changed. The airport has been there since Day 1.”
Obviously, the F.A.A. would not have taken a step like this if it didn’t consider the threat to be a serious one. Nonetheless, it isn’t going to make Israel very happy. What will be interesting to see is whether this ban goes beyond 24 hours.