The Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban late Wednesday on US flights in and out of Israel, which the agency had imposed out of concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.
“Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its US 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 US 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.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz hailed the FAA reevaluation and said the ban lifting “proves once again that Israel’s airspace is safe.”
Katz added that those “who tried to impose a blockade on Israel failed,” and expressed hope that European carriers resume activity in the near future as well.
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 US 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.”
“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.”