Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) decided Wednesday to accept the recommendation of the Airports Authority Director, and gave instructions to begin using the airport at Ovda as an alternative airport to which flights can be directed instead of Ben Gurion Airport.
Katz said that 4,000 Israelis are currently stuck in Turkey, because of flight cancellations by foreign airlines.
Israeli carriers are stepping up their activity to assist thousands Israelis who wish to return to Israel but are stranded abroad because of the decision by many airlines to avoid Ben Gurion airport due to security considerations.
El Al has replaced the planes it uses for its Zurich, Brussels and Bucharest flights with larger models, in order to be able to carry the extra passengers. In addition, a new flight to Larnaca and Heraclion has been added.
Arkia and Israir are expected to add flights as well.
Ben Gurion is still operating normally, the Israel Airports Authority said Wednesday. At least 200 flights are expected to land in the course of the day, but about 80 flights have been canceled.
In a gesture intended to pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to lift its newly declared ban on flights to Israel, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has flown to Tel Aviv in an effort to “show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel.”
The ban was imposed after a Hamas rocket demolished a home in Yahud, near Ben Gurion Airport.
Bloomberg, echoing comments made by the Israel Government, said the decision to impose a ban was a victory for the terrorists. “Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely,” said Bloomberg.
“The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.