80 flights by foreign airlines to and from Israel have been canceled in the past 24 hours, according to the Israel Civil Aviation Authority. At least 8,000 Israelis have been stranded in Israel and overseas, and it is not clear when flights will be renewed. The foreign airlines who canceled their flights to Israel following the missile fired at Yehud are still awaiting a decision by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), considered world's leading civil aviation authority, which announced yesterday that it was suspending flights to and from Israel by US airlines for 24 hours. As of now, it is unclear what the FAA will decide. In the meanwhile, diplomatic and aviation parties are taking action to change the decision.
"In my experience with the FAA, it's motivated by professional considerations, not political ones, but that doesn't mean that it pays no attention to politics," said Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies head and former El Al pilot Eran Ramot. "The FAA makes its decisions by the book. It stops flying a given distance from where a missile lands."
Ramot finds it difficult to predict what the FAA will decide. "They are facing a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, it's a war zone, and they want to keep the passengers safe. On the other hand, they don't want to disrupt aviation traffic to an entire country. The FAA must also deal with the problem of the US passengers left stranded here by flight cancellations. It will also be interesting to see what the European airlines will do if the FAA decides to resume flights to Israel as usual. That's liable to put them in an uncomfortable position," he stated.
In addition to the three Israeli airlines (El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL), Arkia Airlines Ltd.", and Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd.), eight foreign airlines are also still flying to Israel: British Airways, Russia Airlines, Czech Airlines, Ukraine Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Bulgarian Airlines, and BlueBird Airways (based in the Greek island of Crete).
"The missile fired at Yehud has upset the applecart and created a domino effect, and the Israeli passengers are paying the price," a senior civil aviation sources said. Another source said that Israel was paying the price for the global hysteria resulting from the downing of the Malaysian jet by a missile over Ukraine a few days ago.
Israel Air Pilot Association chairman Yosi Shuv said, "In any war involving the home front, foreign airlines either stop flying to Israel or threaten to do so. While Israeli pilots reaching Ben Gurion Airport run to the security room and go on flying passengers as usual, the foreign pilots get cold feet." He added, "Declaring an open and clear skies policy is not very wise. The problem starts when the skies get cold and are decorated with clouds of smoke. I'm trying to explain to members of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Association that flying in Israel is safe even under the currently prevailing conditions, but they're not listening. The halting of flights here by the airlines was predictable, and no surprise."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 23, 2014
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014