FAA lifts ban on US carriers flying to Israel

The FAA has lifted its 24-hour ban on US airlines flying to Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport.

The ban was put in place on Tuesday (July 22) after a rocket landed one mile from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.

However, airlines from across Europe and the US chose to cancel flights to Israel before the ban was put in place and it is possible some will continue with the voluntary ban.

Delta Air Lines was the first to re-route yesterday, triggering many other US airlines to avoid Israel.

Likewise, European carriers including easyJet, Alitalia, Air France and Lufthansa have all halted flights to the region. EASA has also urged carriers not to fly there.

Interestingly, in this case, airlines chose to re-route before formal bans were in place. This is despite the cost and disruption involved in re-routing.

For an airline to take the decision in-house suggests they were nervous; nervous either of the risk to safety, or of the media, legal or public kickback such a risk could deliver.

Air France has said its security department was “closely monitoring local developments in real time”. EasyJet has said likewise.

Usually, airlines will fly unless officially instructed to do otherwise, but it appears that now – motivated by their own nervousness – they are making their own decisions.

Of course, no airline would risk an accident and after MH17 it’s natural for carriers, if not their passengers, to be nervous.

However, it is highly likely that the missile that hit flight MH17 was a BUK ground-to-air missile, designed specifically to hit aircraft and operated by trained users. The rockets sent from the Gaza Strip to Tel Aviv are, in comparison, very small – it would be almost impossible for one to hit an aircraft in the air, let alone do any real damage.

One wonders whether a ban really balances the risk?

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called for the ban to be lifted, while the country’s transport minister, Yisrael Katz, said: “There is no need for US carriers to suspend flights and reward terrorism.” He added that to do so would be to “hand terror a prize”.
Yet a rocket is a rocket, and the MH17 incident has taught us to be cautious. Palestinian militants have fired thousands of rockets towards Israel. Israel’s defences have intercepted many of these, but the risk is still there. No doubt airlines will be extremely cautious – no one wants another MH17.

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