Delta aircraft (Israel Haderi)
A Delta aircraft at Ben-Gurion International Airport in 2006. Photo by Israel Haderi
Text size

Foreign airlines have been avoiding fueling their planes at Ben-Gurion International Airport since last week's discovery of contamination of jet fuel supplied at the airport and are expected to continue to do so in the near future. Some aircraft from abroad have been arriving with enough fuel to make the return trip to their home bases.

The companies say they are doing this to assure service on a regular schedule. Swiss, Austrian Airlines and the German carrier Lufthansa were among the carriers arriving with enough fuel to forgo refueling in Israel. The practice has continued despite an announcement two days ago by the Israel Airports Authority that refueling of aircraft at Ben-Gurion has returned to normal.

The Israel Air Force has also been operating mobile labs to check the quality of all of the fuel being used at the airport, and there were no reports yesterday of flights being delayed by contamination of fuel. Nonetheless, the International Air Transport Association (IATA ) is expected to recommend that aircraft not be refueled in Israel for the time being. Representatives of Israeli and foreign airlines met with Israel Airports Authority officials yesterday afternoon for an assessment of the situation.

Airlines have also begun assessing the financial damage they have suffered from the disruptions caused by the fuel contamination problem at Ben-Gurion. It is expected to amount to tens of millions of dollars, and the carriers are exploring the possibility of suing the Transportation Ministry, local aviation authorities and the supplier of the jet fuel at Ben-Gurion, Paz subsidiary Aviation Assets.

The airlines say they have incurred losses from the purchase of fuel abroad, the payment of landing fees at refueling stops, the cost of hotel accommodations for stranded passengers and personnel expenses involved in employing stand-by crews. Brussels Airlines, among others, has been arriving in Israel with double sets of crews so that its flights can return to its home base without refueling even if delays on the ground require that the original crews be relieved of their duties when they reach the maximum number of hours they can work without time off.

For its part, the Civil Aviation Authority said yesterday: "The CAA supports the cancellation of the directive regarding the need to refuel in advance abroad. [The cancellation of the directive] is based on instructions on Monday of this week by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. In addition, based on the same instructions, an additional inspection is being carried out, beyond [the usual] requirement, to check compliance of the fuel with international standards." The CAA also said it was awaiting results of tests seeking the cause of the fuel contamination over the past week so that the matter might be put to rest.