El Al Boeing 757 Moti Milrod
Ben-Gurion Airport Photo by Moti Milrod
Text size
related tags

The International Air Transport Association (IATA ) on Wednesday castigated Israel for its inferior aviation safety, warning of the economic damage the low safety ranking could cause Israeli airlines and passengers.

"[The safety situation] is a national embarrassment," said IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani, speaking at a meeting with Israeli Transport Minister Israel Katz at Tel Aviv's Dan Hotel. He urged Israel to upgrade its safety ranking to category 1 swiftly.

"Israel has been in category two for far too long...It is a costly situation for Israel's reputation and for the financial health of its carriers," Bisignani said.

Israel's aviation safety status was downgraded to category two by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in January 2009. IATA warned last year it may follow the FAA in downgrading Israel's safety status.

"Aviation builds bridges of commerce and goodwill among people, businesses and nations. Airlines connect over 2.3 billion people and 40 million tons of cargo annually...But success must be supported by effective government policies that promote a safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible industry," said Bisignani.

"Global standards are not out of reach," he said. "Israel's four IATA member airlines (Arkia, C.A.L. Cargo Airlines, El Al and Israir Airlines ) are on the registry of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA ) for achieving the highest standards in operational safety management. The regulator must also uphold global standards decided through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO )," he said.

IATA offered its expertise to speed the process and encouraged Israel to join the growing list of countries that have made IOSA a national requirement.

Bisignani said IATA objects to expanding the use of Israel's new Code Positive identification for commercial airplanes, which will warn of possible hijackings before the plane lands at Ben-Gurion Airport.

"I urged Minister Katz to abandon this unilateral and ineffective program in favor of a strong industry dialogue respecting global standards," said Bisignani.

The International Federation of Airline Pilots' Associations and the Israel Air Line Pilots' Association also object to using the system, even though five airlines have already started using Code Positive last month.

Bisignani emphasized Israel's urgent need for an alternative airport to Ben-Gurion to handle operational irregularities. Ovda Airport, the previous commercial alternative airport, was closed to all but charter operations earlier this year, leaving Larnaca in Cyprus as the alternative should Ben-Gurion become unavailable.

"This is unacceptable and makes little sense. Airlines face added fuel costs to be able to fly to Larnaca while charter operators continue to land at Ovda. The government must move quickly to upgrade Ovda or designate a military facility for this purpose," said Bisignani.

Katz and Bisignani also discussed cargo security. "The events of late October [involving explosives found on international cargo shipments] are a reminder that aviation security is a constant challenge," Bisignani said.

"We are committed to working together...to make a secure industry even more secure. Our vision for cargo security combines a supply chain approach, modern technology and intelligence supported by effective information gathering."