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Carriers focus on risk and cut flights to Tel Aviv

July 25, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Several airlines have suspended flights to Tel Aviv as battles continue in the Gaza Strip and rockets fall on Israel. Militant Palestinian group Hamas has already warned that it considers Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport a legitimate target.

US airlines Delta, American and United have announced cancellations of flights to the airport, followed by European carriers including Air France, Lufthansa and Air Berlin.

The moves coincide with airline anxiety over the general topic of flying above or near fighting on the ground. The subject is a hot concern following the tragic shooting down of Malaysia Airlines fight MH17, described as a “hideous crime” by IATA.

On the Middle Eastern front, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said earlier this week it had banned US carriers from flying to or from Ben Gurion Airport for up to 24 hours. The prohibition followed a rocket fired from Gaza landing about 1.5km from the airport.

The FAA notice cited “the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza”.

Israeli officials are calling for flights to resume, seeing any suspension as a reward for terrorism. US Secretary of State John Kerry had no qualms about flying to Ben Gurion Airport when he visited Israel on Wednesday to try to negotiate a cease-fire agreement.

In a wider context, the deaths of 298 passengers and crew on MH17 are causing a re-think of flight paths. Some of the issues involved were outlined by noted specialist travel and leisure lawyer Anthony Cordato:

Should airlines advise passengers of the intended flight route before they fly?

Before MH17 was shot down, the flight path it took across eastern Ukraine was used by many other airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Qatar Airways and KLM. Qantas, it should be noted, re-routed its flights farther south some months ago.

“We note that following the MH17 incident, SIA had immediately re-routed their flights to avoid Ukrainian airspace,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a statement reported by Reuters.

“CAAS has also since asked Singapore carriers to review their risk assessment on conflict areas.”

Former head of safety at Qantas, Ron Bartsch, now chairman of aviation safety consultancy AvLaw International, has suggested another possibility: for IATA to issue warnings of relative danger. Bartsch suggested these might be along the lines of hurricane warnings issued by weather forecasters. They need to be timely, he pointed out.

Written by : Peter Needham

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