Probe Points to Imported Jet Fuel as Source of Airport Contamination

Int'l team blames Paz for May shutdown at Ben-Gurion.

The contaminated jet fuel that halted flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport in May was apparently imported by Paz Oil Company and supplied to the airport by subsidiary Paz Aviation Assets, an investigation by an International Air Transport Association team has concluded.

The IATA team finished collecting evidence about two weeks ago on the incident. This was followed up with three days of independent research, with meetings with airport head Shmuel Kandel and members of his staff and with visits to fuel depots at the Bilu and Glilot junctions and the airport's own fuel facilities.

Plane Fuel - Ofer Vaknin - 07.07.2011
Ofer Vaknin

The IATA probe followed uncertainty over the source of the jet fuel contamination, which disrupted aviation traffic to and from Israel for more than a week. A National Infrastructure Ministry investigation was unable to determine the source of the contamination.

When the problem was discovered, some aircraft from foreign carriers arrived in Israel with enough fuel to obviate the need for refueling in Israel.

Some El Al flights had to make stopovers for for refueling. El Al canceled 20 flights, including service to New York, London, Moscow and other European destinations.

The airline announced at the time that affected passengers would receive a refund or could opt to fly on future flight to any destination in the same region of the world. Arkia Airlines was also forced to scrap flights. El Al has since taken steps to file a lawsuit for the financial damage it incurred as a result of the incident. Other airlines are also expected to sue.

El Al was forced to arrange flights for passengers on other carriers or provide them accommodations. The Israeli airline also incurred increased expenses for refueling stopovers at foreign airports and encountered additional wage costs for staff added to deal with the flight disruptions.

El Al itself has been the target of a class action suit over the incident. One passenger filed a NIS 12.5 million lawsuit in Tel Aviv District Court, claiming NIS 5,000 for herself and a similar claim on behalf of the 2,500 travelers the suit says also had their El Al flights canceled.

Paz said in response: "The company has not received a final report from IATA and as far as is known to the company at this point, no findings whatsoever exist indicating the reason and the cause of the fuel [contamination] incident at Ben-Gurion Airport."