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59 Incoming Flights, 60 Departures Canceled Sunday

Two flights to Barcelona had to turn back in mid-air but flights to Rome, Madrid and Athens continued.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 4/18/2010, 6:14 PM / Last Update: 4/18/2010, 6:41 PM

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One hundred and nineteen flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport were canceled Sunday because of the volcanic ash in Europe's skies: 60 departures and 59 arrivals. Two flights to Barcelona – one on El Al, the other on Sun-Dor – had to turn back to Israel when they were about two hours' flight away from their destination, where they were supposed to pick up Israelis who are stranded in Europe.

Airports Authority Director Kobi Mor gathered a panel of representatives of foreign and Israeli airlines Sunday to discuss the crisis, in an attempt to assist the airlines to get through the no-fly period and for operational assessments regarding the reopening of airports in Europe. Besides senior officials from the Airports Authority and Ben Gurion Airport, representatives of El Al, Arkia, Israir, Lufthansa, Delta and Swissair attended.

Website available
Mor said that the Airports Authority is ready with the necessary manpower and will give all assistance required by the airlines. The Authority has asked the public to make use of its website and telephone help centers for information on flights. The English language number for automated messages on flights to and from Ben Gurion is 03-9723332.

Since the ash cloud began spreading across Europe on Thursday, 243 flights have been canceled. 126 of these were outgoing, 117 were arrivals. All together they were to carry about 40,000 passengers.

El Al flights to Rome, Madrid and Athens are continuing as scheduled for now. “We understand the importance of bringing our passengers to Israel for Remembrance Day and Independence Day,” a spokesman said. “That is why we are doing our utmost to bring back as many passengers as possible.”

The airline announced on Sunday afternoon that it will resume flights Monday to a number of European destinations if things don't change for the worse during the evening. The cities are: Barcelona, Berlin, Bucharest, Budapest, Kiev, Marseille, Milan, Munich, Sofia and Warsaw.