Europe lifts ban on flights to Tel Aviv airport

Passengers and airline staff stand near a check-in desk of an airline that cancelled its flight out of Tel Aviv at Ben Gurion International airport on 22 July 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The abrupt flight cancellations in Tel Aviv left some passengers stranded

European airlines have been told they can consider flying again to Tel Aviv airport in Israel.

The decision follows a similar one earlier on Thursday, in which the US aviation regulator lifted its ban on US carriers flying there.

The European Aviation Safety Agency stopped short of saying that resumed flights would be safe.

It said airlines and national authorities should make their own decisions, based on the risks involved.

The decision of these authorities to change tack was immediately followed by the UK airline Easyjet resuming flights to Tel Aviv.

‎"Due to the FAA lifting its instruction to all United States' airlines to suspend their flights to Israel, and the European safety regulator EASA following suit, EasyJet will operate its services to and from Tel Aviv as scheduled from Friday 25 July," the budget carrier said.

"EasyJet will also operate one return flight this afternoon between London Gatwick and Tel Aviv." ‎


The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had first imposed its ban on Tuesday after a rocket fired from the Gaza strip landed about a mile from the airport.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) followed the same day, saying it strongly recommended that airlines should avoid operating to and from Tel Aviv.

The suspension in flights came less than a week after Israel began a ground attack in Gaza, and as airlines around the world re-thought their flight paths over conflict areas in the wake of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.

The US authorities extended their ban on Wednesday, citing the "potentially hazardous situation" in Israel and Gaza.

But on Thursday they changed their mind.

"The FAA has lifted its restrictions on US airline flights into and out of Israel's Ben Gurion Airport by cancelling a Notice to Airmen it renewed earlier today (Wednesday)," the regulator was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

'Show solidarity'

The flight cancellations drew criticisms in both the US and Israel.

The initial US flight suspension prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ask US Secretary of State John Kerry for help lifting the FAA ban.

Israel's transportation ministry had said: "Ben Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize."

On Tuesday, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew on Israeli airline El Al to Tel Aviv to "show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel".