German Pilots Rap Decision to Renew Flights to Israel

The pilots union is demanding that all crews flying to Israel do so on a voluntary basis only.

A departure flight board displays various canceled and delayed flights in Ben Gurion Airport.
Flight board at Ben Gurion Airport displaying cancelled flights during ban. AP

The German pilots’ union on Saturday criticized a decision by Lufthansa and Air Berlin airlines to resume flights to Ben Gurion Airport, according to a report in The Scotsman.

Flights into Israel were halted last week by the American Federal Aviation Authority and most European airlines after a Hamas rocket landed on a house near the airport.

The bans were rescinded after about 36 hours and most airlines have resumed flights to Israel. Turkey lifted its ban on Saturday afternoon.

Joerg Handwerg, a board member at Vereinigung Cockpit, the pilot's union, said the decision seemed driven by political and economic factors rather than by security reasons.

“We should not be flying to locations where there are shots being fired,” Handwerg said, noting that Israel’s rocket defense system appeared unable to stop all rockets.

It was the responsibility of the airlines to ensure that staff flying to Israel did so on a voluntary basis only, Handwerg said.

A spokesman for Lufthansa said the airline was constantly monitoring the security situation at Ben Gurion airport, using all available security information.

“A decision on whether or not to fly is made purely on the basis of security considerations,” the spokesman said.

The Lufthansa Group also operates the airlines Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss.

The European Cockpit Association, (ECA) which represents 38,000 European pilots from 37 European states, declined to comment on the lifting of the flight ban, but said they were concerned about a lack of transparency.

"The main issue is that there is no common understanding of the risk assessment process being used or assurance that the assessment for all airline operators is being fed by the best available intelligence," ECA said in a statement.

"This makes it difficult to judge if the security situation has indeed changed or not, and whether the resulting action taken is appropriate."