MIAMI — Carriers around the world have been suspending or diverting service to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday following a Gaza-based rocket launch that landed within a mile of the busy airfield.
Delta Airlines announced it would suspend its flights indefinitely from New York’s JFK International Airport first, following a diversion of company flight 468 to Paris. The pilots of the Boeing 747-400 made the decision following reports of rocket activity in the area. United Airlines, which flies 777-200 service from Newark, and US Airways, which flies A330-200 service from Philadelphia, soon followed suit, though each plan to resume flights on Wednesday.
Not that either would have much choice for much longer. One hour after Delta’s decision, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibited all U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for 24 hours, effective 12:15 P.M. Eastern Time today.
Since then the area, according to flightradar24.com, several foreign carriers have diverted their flights bound for Israel after the FAA’s directive. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has since urged European carriers not to fly to Tel Aviv.
Before the EASA’s warning, Lufthansa and its subsidiaries cancelled all flights to Ben Gurion for 36 hours, while British Airways and Air France-KLM said they would cancel their flights until further notice. The EASA plans to issue a bulletin on Wednesday that will “strongly recommend” airlines avoid Ben Gurion Airport.
Israel’s Transportation Ministry is asking carriers to reconsider their decision, claiming the airport is safe for take-offs and landings. In a statement, the ministry said that the airport is “safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize.”
The FAA says it will continue to monitor the situation and provide an update to U.S. carriers before the 24-hour ban expires.
Fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants began on July 8. Palestinian militant organization Hamas has launched over 2,000 rockets since hostilities began. Israel relies on the “Iron Dome” missile intercept system to protect itself from these attacks. Ben Gurion Airport is located 50 miles from Gaza.
The incident comes at a sensitive time for the worldwide aviation community. Only days ago a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200ER was shot down in Ukrainian airspace, killing all 298 souls on board.