EU Says Won't Downgrade Aviation Security Rating of Israeli Airlines

Statement comes three weeks after European aviation authorities announced they were stepping up the safety tests for Israeli air companies.

The European Union notified the Transportation Ministry Monday that it will not downgrade the aviation security rating of Israeli airlines.

The statement comes three weeks after the European aviation authorities announced they were stepping up the safety tests for Israeli air companies. At the time, the international organization monitoring scheduled flights warned that Israeli airlines would soon be forbidden to land in Europe or even to over-fly the continent.

In a meeting held in Brussels over the weekend, EU airline safety officials told representatives of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel that they have no intention of modifying the aviation security rating of El Al, Arkia, Israir, or Sandor Airlines.

A Transport Ministry spokesperson said that "within the framework of the talks, the European representatives expressed satisfaction with the steps the Civil Aviation Authority has taken to deal with the security issues."

In March, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Israel's aviation safety standard rating to that of Third World countries this weekend, in a move that carries dire consequences for Israeli airlines and seriously damages Israel's international status.

The FAA moved Israel from Category 1 to Category 2, following an assessment last July, the FAA reported in a statement released Friday. The rating, given by the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, is not related to security issues, but rather to standard safety matters.

The reason for the change in status is flight safety problems and oversight issues that have not yet been solved, at Ben-Gurion International Airport among others.

The assessments are not an indication of whether individual air carriers are safe or unsafe. Rather, they determine whether civil aviation authorities are meeting international safety standards. The Israel Air Pilots Association has blamed the government for the reclassification.

In addition to damaging Israel's international image, the move will also restrict the activity of Israeli airlines in the U.S. Airlines from Category 2 countries are not authorized to fly any new routes inside the U.S., which means El Al's activity in America will be frozen until Israel regains its Category 1 status.

Additionally, El Al and Israel's other airlines will be blocked from changing airplane models or adding new ones to their U.S. routes. They will also face stricter supervision in the U.S., including more frequent and surprise inspections - which may delay flights and harm customer service.

It will also make flights to the U.S. more expensive for Israeli airlines, which might translate into higher ticket prices. This is in part because the reclassification will nullify code-sharing agreements El Al has with American counterparts.

Finally, the redefinition could cause Canada and the European Union, as well as other countries, to take similar measures.