Flights to Tel Aviv canceled

Posted: July 24, 2014

TRAVELERS HOPING to jet off to Tel Aviv yesterday were forced to reschedule plans after airlines suspended service to the Israeli city in the wake of a reported rocket attack.

US Airways, the only airline with a direct daily flight between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv, canceled Flight 797 to Philadelphia and Flight 796 to Tel Aviv.

The cancellations were brought on by the news that a rocket from Gaza had landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a 24-hour ban on flights between the U.S. and Tel Aviv beginning at 12:15 p.m. yesterday.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel since fighting began July 8, and several heading toward the area of the airport have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. But police spokeswoman Luba Samri said yesterday's landing was the closest to the airport.

American Airlines, the parent company of US Airways, said in a statement: "We are reaching out to customers and working with other airlines to re-accommodate those affected." Until Aug. 31, American said, "customers who choose to change their travel plans can do so without change fees."

Delta Airlines suspended its service to Tel Aviv from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Delta diverted a Tel Aviv-bound flight with 273 passengers to Paris. United Airlines also suspended service to Tel Aviv, and airlines in Europe and Canada took similar action.

Israeli airline El Al maintained its regular flight schedule.

The Israeli Transportation Ministry called on the airlines that canceled flights to reverse their decision, insisting that Ben-Gurion Airport is completely guarded and saying there is no reason to "hand terror a prize" by halting the flights.

Analysts said the cancellations showed both a skittishness and a new sense of urgency in dealing with global trouble spots following last week's downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine.

How long the cessation of flights will last is unclear. U.S. airlines now must wait for the FAA, which said it would provide updated guidance by midday today.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged the FAA to "reverse course" and permit U.S. airlines to fly to Israel.

Bloomberg released a statement saying he was flying on El Al to Tel Aviv last night to "show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel."

"The U.S. flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately," Bloomberg said.

Last year, an average of 1,044 passengers flew each way on the four daily flights between the U.S. and Israel on American carriers, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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