FAA continues no-fly ban to Tel Aviv

The arrivals terminal is empty at Ben Gurion International airport a day after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed a 24-hour restriction on flights after a Hamas rocket landed Tuesday within a mile of the airport, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Israel's main airport Wednesday despite a Federal Aviation Administration ban in an apparent sign of his determination to achieve a cease-fire agreement in the warring Gaza Strip despite little evidence of progress in ongoing negotiations. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
The arrivals terminal is empty at Ben Gurion International airport a day after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration imposed a 24-hour restriction on flights after a Hamas rocket landed Tuesday within a mile of the airport, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Israel's main airport Wednesday despite a Federal Aviation Administration ban in an apparent sign of his determination to achieve a cease-fire agreement in the warring Gaza Strip despite little evidence of progress in ongoing negotiations. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Posted: July 25, 2014

The Federal Aviation Administration extended a ban for an additional 24 hours Wednesday on commercial flights to and from Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, while the FAA "continues to monitor and evaluate the situation."

The FAA said it was working closely with the Israeli government to "review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated."

The decision continued the original, 24-hour no-fly ban imposed Tuesday, in response to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza and a rocket strike that landed near the main Tel Aviv airport.

U.S. airlines remained cautious about resuming flights to Israel. US Airways and Delta Air Lines canceled flights to Tel Aviv on Wednesday even before the FAA decision.

The international aviation community remained wary about flying near the conflict zone, after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine last week.

US Airways, now part of American Airlines and the dominant carrier at Philadelphia International Airport, said Wednesday that when the FAA no-fly rule is lifted, it will "consider resuming service to Tel Aviv."

Until then, US Airways scrubbed all round-trip flights between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv.

"For customers with future travel plans to Tel Aviv, our travel advisory and flexible ticketing policy remain in place through August 31," the airline said. "Customers who choose to change their travel plans can do so without change fees."

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson said on a conference call to discuss earnings results Wednesday that Delta might not fly to Israel, even if the FAA lifts the ban.

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

A Delta Boeing 747 that departed New York with 273 passengers on board was flying over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday morning - two hours outside Tel Aviv - when a rocket reportedly hit about a mile from Ben Gurion International Airport.

Asked by a reporter whether the airline would need a cease-fire in Gaza before resuming flights, Anderson replied: "A lot of this is information that is not public between Delta and the government, so I don't want to speculate on that publicly."

Israel's Civil Aviation Authority has been in contact with the FAA, insisting the airport was safe.

El Al Airlines, the flag carrier of Israel, has continued flying to Ben Gurion, as has British Airways and some other foreign carriers.

El Al said Wednesday it was adding flights to Israel from various destinations "to accommodate stranded passengers."

Among the European airlines that have suspended flights are Air France, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss Air, Brussels Airlines, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.


lloyd@phillynews.com

215-854-2831

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