Saturday 27 December 2014

US ban on flights to Israel lifted

Published 24/07/2014 | 06:34

Travellers in front of a departures board showing a cancelled flight to Tel Aviv at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey (AP)
Travellers in front of a departures board showing a cancelled flight to Tel Aviv at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey (AP)

The US Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on flights in and out of Israel, which the agency had imposed out of concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.

"Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its US 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," the FAA said.

"The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions as necessary."

The FAA instituted a 24-hour prohibition on Tuesday in response to a rocket strike that landed about a mile from the airport.

The directive, which was extended yesterday, applied only to US carriers. The FAA has no authority over foreign airlines operating in Israel.

The FAA's flight ban was criticised by the Israeli government and by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who questioned whether President Barack Obama used a federal agency to impose an economic boycott on Israel.

Delta Air Lines, which diverted a jumbo jet away from Tel Aviv before Tuesday's ban by the FAA, will not necessarily resume flights to Israel even if US authorities declare the area safe, the airline's chief executive said before the FAA lifted the ban.

Richard Anderson said Delta would of course obey FAA orders but would continue to make its own decisions about safety.

"We appreciate the advice and consent and the intelligence we get, but we have a duty and an obligation above and beyond that to independently make the right decisions for our employees and passengers," he said.

He said even of the prohibition on flying in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport was lifted, "we still may not go in depending on what the facts and circumstances are".

Mr Anderson said the airline decides whether flights are safe to operate "on an independent basis, so we will evaluate the information we have and we will make the judgment that our passengers and employees rely on us to make for them every day".

The chief executive of Middle East carrier Emirates said after the shooting down in Ukraine of a Malaysia Airlines jet last week that global airlines need better risk-assessment from international aviation authorities. Delta, however, seems more inclined to go it alone.

"We have a broad and deep security network around the world," Mr Anderson said.

"We have security directors that work for Delta in all the regions of the world, and we have a very sophisticated capability and methodology to manage these kinds of risks, whether it's this or a volcano or a hurricane."

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) later lifted a recommendation that airlines refrain from flying to Tel Aviv.

The agency said it is now recommending that national authorities base decisions on flying to Israel's main airport "on thorough risk assessments, in particular using risk analysis made by operators".

The EASA said late on Tuesday that it "strongly recommends" that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv.

It said it revised its advice on the basis of information provided by Israel's Civil Aviation Authority and following coordination with the US FAA.

Press Association

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