United, Delta and USAir suspend flights to Israel - UPDATE FAA BANS US FLIGHTS, EUROPEANS FOLLOW SUIT
United, Delta and USAir have suspended all flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport after a Hamas rocket this afternoon landed in Yahud, some 5 kilometers from the airport (Hat Tip: NY Nana). The White House says that it did not order the flights suspended, but Delta said it made its decision in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Delta said it suspended service to and from its New York JFK hub "until further notice," while the Israel Airports Authority would only confirm that the carriers had suspended flight scheduled for Monday. US Airways has not yet released a statement.
United announced it was also suspending flights to and from Tel Aviv until further notice.
Transportation Minister called on American aviation companies to return to normal functioning, stressing that Ben-Gurion airport was safe from for take-offs and landings, and that there was no security concern for passenger planes.
"There is no reason for the American companies to stop their flight and give a prize to terror," he said.
Though media had reported that the US Federal Aviation Authority had ordered the cancellations, it did not issue any new guidance on flying through the region. The airline companies had acted on their own authority.
An order from the FAA could have had far greater repercussions for Israel's economy.
"As soon as the FAA gives such an order to US carriers, in most cases it's a domino effect, and most European carriers will be forced to suspend their flights," said an industry source.
Regardless, the source added, "This is a huge coup for Hamas."
Tourism accounts for about 5% of Israel's exports, and has already declined as a result of the rocket fire from Gaza.
According to Channel 2, Israeli and American flight officials are reportedly trying to come to an understanding regarding the US concerns over rocket fire.
Israel contends that the Iron Dome rocket defense system, which has proven to be 90% effective during Operation Protective Edge, is also capable of intercepting projectiles in the area of Ben-Gurion Airport.
The rocket which landed in the courtyard of a home in Yehud on Tuesday, causing damage and leaving two people lightly injured, marked the first direct hit in the greater Tel Aviv area since the Gaza operation began more than two weeks ago.There is an answer, but so far only El Al has bought into it. American Airlines (which recently merged with USAir) decided six years ago that the solution was too expensive.
UPDATE 8:44 PM
The FAA has now banned all US airlines from flying here for the next 24 hours and Air France, KLM and Lufthansa have all said that they won't fly here either.
"The FAA immediately notified US carriers when the agency learned of the rocket strike and informed them that the agency was finalizing a [Notice to Airmen]" prohibiting the flights.
Delta diverted flight 468 from JFK with 273 passengers and 17 crew, Paris-Charles de Gaulle "after reports of a rocket or associated debris near the airport in Tel Aviv," and said that it was working to re-accommodate its customers.
While the FAA does not have jurisdiction over European or other international air carriers, the decision may lead to other cancellations.
"As soon as the FAA gives such an order to US carriers, in most cases it's a domino effect, and most European carriers will be forced to suspend their flights," said an industry source. "This is a huge coup for Hamas."
Air France suspended all flights to and from Israel due to "security reasons linked to the evolution of the local situation," Reuters quoted an airline spokesman as saying.The US issued a travel warning against traveling to Israel or Gaza this morning. Nevertheless, over 200 North American immigrants arrived here today.
Lufthansa, Swiss Air, and KLM also suspended flights to Ben Gurion.