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FAA lifts ban on US flights to Tel Aviv airport

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban Wednesday
on U.S. flights in and out of Israel, which the agency had imposed out of
concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.

The decision was effective at 11:45 p.m. EDT.

“Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government
counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed
both significant new information and measures the government of Israel is taking
to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” the FAA said. “The agency will
continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport
and will take additional actions as necessary.”

The FAA instituted a 24-hour prohibition Tuesday in response to a rocket strike
that landed about a mile from the airport.

The directive, which was extended Wednesday, applied only to U.S. carriers. The
FAA has no authority over foreign airlines operating in Israel.

The FAA’s flight ban was criticized by the Israeli government and by Republican
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who questioned whether President Barack Obama used a
federal agency to impose an economic boycott on Israel.

Delta Air Lines, which diverted a jumbo jet away from Tel Aviv before Tuesday’s
ban by the FAA, will not necessarily resume flights to Israel even if U.S.
authorities declare the area safe, the airline’s CEO said before the FAA lifted
the ban.

CEO Richard Anderson said Delta would of course obey FAA orders but would
continue to make its own decisions about safety.

“We appreciate the advice and consent and the intelligence we get, but we have
a duty and an obligation above and beyond that to independently make the right
decisions for our employees and passengers,” Anderson said on a conference call
with reporters. “Even if they lift” the prohibition on flying in and out of
Ben-Gurion Airport, “we still may not go in depending on what the facts and
circumstances are.”

Anderson declined to discuss specifically how the airline would make the
decision to resume the flights and spoke only in general terms. He said the
airline decides whether flights are safe to operate “on an independent basis,
so we will evaluate the information we have and we will make the judgment that
our passengers and employees rely on us to make for them every day.”

The CEO of Middle East carrier Emirates said after the shoot-down in Ukraine of
a Malaysia Airlines jet last week that global airlines need better
risk-assessment from international aviation authorities. Delta, however, seems
more inclined to go it alone.

“We have a broad and deep security network around the world,” Anderson said.
“We have security directors that work for Delta in all the regions of the
world, and we have a very sophisticated capability and methodology to manage
these kinds of risks, whether it’s this or a volcano or a hurricane.”


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