Iberia Airlines planes
Iberia Airlines planesReuters

The Spanish airline Iberia initially apologized after one of its pilots welcomed Israelis in Spanish to "Palestine" on Wednesday, right before they touched down in Tel Aviv - but now the airline has changed its tune and is denying the incident ever occurred.

Numerous passengers wrote angry letters to the airline and reported the incident to Israeli media networks. Israel's embassy in Madrid likewise complained to Iberia, the Foreign Ministry told AFP.

In response to a request by Channel 2 to respond to the incident, an Iberia spokeswoman initially said the pilot made a "mistake" which was "corrected" when he made the announcement in English minus the "Palestine."

"We are very sorry and wish to apologize to the passengers," said the spokeswoman. "We have been flying to Tel Aviv for a long time and we know the city is in the State of Israel and there is no doubt about that. We even promoted tourism in Tel Aviv in our magazine."

"We will speak with the flight crew on the issue and open an investigation into the matter. The captain will not fly to Tel Aviv in the near future due to the incident."

However, just a day later the Spanish airline changed its line, claiming that the incident was a mere misunderstanding and denying the pilot's statement that was heard by numerous passengers.

"The word 'Palestine' was not used in the announcement," the airline claimed. "The captain adhered to the standard format, in which only the airports of origin and destination are named, and not countries, regions or territories."

"Both the airline and the crew regret the misunderstanding, which could be caused by the similar sound of the Spanish word 'destino,' meaning 'destination,' with 'Palestina,'" it added, insinuating that the Spanish speaking Israeli passengers misunderstood the dissonant words.