FAA lifts flight ban on Israel, Europe follows suit
The U.S. aviation administration had decided to extend the ban by another 24 hours, but rescinded the move less than 12 hours later. Still, cruise ships are now canceling.
The European Aviation Safety Agency said Thursday it had lifted its recommendation to avoid flying to Israel, hours after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rescinded its ban upon receiving security assurances from Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority. But cruise-ship companies are now canceling visits to Israel.
The lifting of the U.S. flight ban came less than 12 hours after Washington had extended the regulation for another 24 hours.
American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and US Airways are now permitted to resume their flights. Flights from the United States are set to resume Friday, but other international airlines have not yet provided an update, and most major airlines are still not flying in and out of Tel Aviv.
Esther Castiel, who heads US Airways’ operations in Tel Aviv, told Haaretz the company would begin flying from Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday.
The temporary ban on American carriers is likely to have a serious long-term impact on Israel’s tourism business, travel experts say. Meanwhile, companies operating cruise ships have also canceled trips to Israel until the security situation clears up.
Germany-based AIDA Cruises, for example, has canceled its ship AIDAdiva’s visits that were to have continued until October. AIDAdiva has been docking in Israel once every two weeks since April, bringing more than 2,000 tourists each time, most from Germany.
At first the company canceled cruises to Israel for July and August after a rocket alert went off as the ship was leaving Ashdod earlier this month. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system.
“The story about the rocket and interception appeared in the German media and perhaps created public pressure to cancel the ship’s arrival,” said Zeri Rosenfeld, CEO of A. Rosenfeld Shipping. “Now instead of coming to Israel they’re going to a Greek island.”
The cruise ship Seven Seas Mariner, which was scheduled to dock at Haifa Port a few days ago with 700 American tourists, canceled its arrival. Oceania, a ship scheduled to visit in September for three days with some 700 passengers, is also passing up on Israel this time around. The ships will stop at other Mediterranean ports such as Mykonos and Antalya instead.
“Altogether some 20,000 passengers won’t be arriving. I know of another 11 cruise ships that are supposed to arrive in October with 14,500 passengers. They’re now considering what to do," says Rosenfeld.
"A whole tourism sector of agents, tour guides, buses, restaurants and souvenir shops suffer from these cancellations. So do hotels in Jerusalem, where many of the tourists stay instead of returning to the ship every evening.”
In response to the flight restrictions this week, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced that Israel would open Ovda Airport in the Negev as an alternative to Ben-Gurion.
As of yet, no airline that operates at Ben-Gurion has given approval to move its flights to Ovda.