US airlines resume flights to Israel

07/24/2014 12:19 PM

07/26/2014 12:37 PM

U.S. airlines announced resumption of flights to Israel Thursday, after the Federal Aviation Administration lifted a two-day flight ban that prevented them from landing at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.

The FAA, heavily criticized by the Israeli government, took the action late Wednesday night.

“Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” the FAA said in a statement announcing the cancellation of its Notice to Airmen.

On Thursday afternoon, Delta Airlines announced it was resuming its daily service from New York City to Tel Aviv.

“The decision comes after careful internal consideration and input from high levels in government including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation,” Morgan Durrant, a Delta spokesperson, said by email. “The FAA has informed Delta that Ben Gurion International Airport is safe for operations.”

United Airlines also was resuming its twice-daily service from Newark, N.J., to Tel Aviv, said spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm.

“Based on the notification from the FAA and our own review, we are resuming our flights in and out of Tel Aviv,” she said in an email.

Earlier Thursday, American Airlines was still mulling when to resume service to Israel.

“We’ve not made a decision just yet,” said Matt Miller, a spokesman for American Airlines, which owns U.S. Airways, which offers a daily flight at 9 pm EDT from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. There are no U.S. Airways jets in Israel right now for a return flight.

Delta, American/U.S. Airways and United all grounded Israel-bound planes for a second consecutive day Wednesday. The FAA said it took its action in response to a rocket strike that landed about a mile from the airport.

The notice only applied to U.S. airlines, and did not restrict El Al, the Israeli airline, or other foreign carriers departing New York or other large U.S. cities for Israel. Numerous foreign carriers had followed suit in halting flights into Israel.

Israel’s Transportation Ministry had stridently insisted it was safe to fly into the country. Israel’s economy depends greatly on tourism to sites considered holy by all three major religions. The flight ban was an economic and public-relations hit to Israel’s tourism sector.

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