FAA Downgrades Israel Airport

The US Aviation Agency has downgraded the safety rating of Israel’s largest airport. "This is a black day for Israeli aviaiton," El Al said.

Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 10:39 AM

At Ben Gurion Airport's new Terminal 3
At Ben Gurion Airport's new Terminal 3
Israel News Photo: (IAA)

The United States Federal Aviation Agency (FAA)  has carried out its threat to downgrade the safety rating of the Ben Gurion International Airport from Category 1 to Category 2, bringing Israel into line with nations such as the Ukraine, Honduras and Haiti.

The rating, which relates to airport safety procedures, has nothing to do with security, but rather relates to deficiencies in flight safety and inspection.

An inspection last month by the FAA found that some Israeli aviation laws are still outdated and irrelevant, regulations are arbitrary and deficient, local airways are crowded and that the airport itself suffers from other limitations.

‘Black Day for Israeli Aviation’
What the rating drop means in practical terms is that Israeli airlines can no longer open new routes to the United States. Insurance premiums for the airlines are also going to rise, which will mean a corresponding rise in air fares, or cancellation of routes to Israel – or possibly both.

It also means a serious drop in Israel’s prestige, just at a time when her tourism is on the rise despite an economic slump in most areas of the world.

“This is a black day for Israeli aviation,” said El Al chief executive officer Lior Yavor in response to the FAA announcement.

The Israel Pilots Association announced Saturday that it blames the Transportation and Road Safety Ministry for the decision and called on the government to take action to rectify the problem.

Former Israel Air Force commander Amos Lapidot, who headed the Public Committee for Air Safety, strongly criticized the ministry, which he charged with not taking responsibility for dealing with the deficiencies previously outlined by the FAA.

The Israel Aviation Authority (IAA) is working with the FAA to take corrective measures to comply with the higher standards imposed by the American agency.

Despite the downgrade, Israel nevertheless maintains one of the tightest airport security operations in the world, which has effectively eliminated terrorist hijackings.