Delta Halts Tel Aviv Service as Rocket Cited at Airport
By Michael Sasso and Mary Schlangenstein Jul 22, 2014 9:32 AM MT
American Airlines, United Airlines (UAL) and Delta Air Lines (DAL), the three biggest U.S. carriers, canceled flights to Israel as rocket attacks by Palestinian militants threatened the Tel Aviv airport.
United and Delta said they were suspending flights until further notice, while American said only that it was scrubbing one round-trip today between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International.
Delta diverted Flight 468, a Boeing Co. 747 carrying 273 passengers and 17 crew members from New York’s Kennedy Airport, to Paris after “reports of a rocket or associated debris” near Ben Gurion Airport, according to the airline’s website. United suspended twice-daily flights to Tel Aviv from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport.
Militants from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have been firing rockets into Israel for weeks, triggering clashes with the Israeli military as the country tries to halt the barrage. More than 570 Palestinians and at least 29 Israelis have been killed during the rocket fire and air strikes on the Gaza Strip that escalated July 8.
Ben Gurion Airport remains safe for landings and takeoffs, Israel’s aviation authority said. According to a text message from the agency, Transport Minister Israel Katz said there was no reason for the U.S. airlines to stop flying and “give a prize to terror.”
The suspensions by United Continental Holdings Inc.’s United and Delta are in effect until further notice, spokesmen for the carriers said without giving a timetable. Atlanta-based Delta said it was acting in conjunction with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
“The FAA will not allow us to transport customers on this flight, which is operating with a special waiver,” Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines (AAL) Group Inc. said in a statement about its service from Philadelphia, which is operated by the US Airways unit.
An FAA spokeswoman, Kristie Greco, said the agency didn’t have an immediate response to questions about Israel flights.
The FAA currently has no restrictions or warnings about flights into Israel posted on its website. The agency prohibits U.S. carriers from flying over Libya and parts of Ethiopia. Last week it also barred flights over the areas of eastern Ukraine after the Flight 17 shoot-down.
The State Department issued a travel warning yesterday asking U.S. citizens to reconsider any non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank.
To contact the reporters on this story: Michael Sasso in Atlanta at msasso9; Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s
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