European Carriers Extend Flight Ban to Israel
Major airlines shunned Israel for a second day on Wednesday amid fears that rocket fire from Gaza could endanger flights into Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, AFP reports, after European airlines followed the FAA's extension on a ban on flights to Israel.
In Washington, officials renewed a formal ban on American flights to Israel until 1615 GMT on Thursday, and around the world many other airlines took their own precautions.
Previous conflicts in Gaza, which has fired over 2,000 rockets at Israel in a two-week period, have not endangered civilian flights in Israeli airspace.
But the cancellations highlighted increased fears for passenger aviation in the wake of last week's downing of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 over Ukraine with almost 300 on board
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued its ban on Tuesday after a rocket fell on a neighborhood to the north of Ben Gurion, raising fears that a commercial flight could be struck.
But US Secretary State John Kerry did land in Israel, and the State Department said that his team "were very comfortable" despite the rocket threat.
"Hamas does have rockets that can reach Ben Gurion airport... although the accuracy of their rockets does remain limited," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Delta, United and US Airways all cancelled their scheduled flights for Wednesday, as did a raft of European carriers including Germany's Lufthansa, Air France, Poland's LOT and others.
"We will continue to suspend flying to and from Tel Aviv ... and will continue to coordinate with the FAA to ensure the safety of our customers and employees," a United spokeswoman said.
"We plan these things conservatively," added US carrier Delta's chief executive Richard Anderson, speaking on the CNBC business news cable channel. "But we will need concrete information from our government that lets us draw an independent conclusion ... that it's going to be safe for our passengers and our employees."
Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Finnair, Iberia, Lufthansa, Air Berlin, Aegean and SAS cancelled services to Tel Aviv, as did Turkish Air. British Airways flights continued.
"At the moment there is no reliable new information that would justify a resumption of flight service," said Lufthansa in a statement.
Austrian, which carries up to 700 passengers between Vienna and Tel Aviv every day, and SAS said they would review the situation for Thursday.
Aeroflot and Romanian carrier TAROM, on the other hand, said they would resume flights Wednesday after cancelling Tuesday. Air Canada cancelled one flight on Wednesday and another Thursday.