On Tuesday, Delta Airlines stopped flights to Tel Aviv, and labeled Ben Gurion International airport a Delta no fly zone, along with Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan and the Ukraine. A Delta flight in progress was diverted to Paris. Later in the day, the United States FAA issued a ban on all U.S. carriers flying to Israel.
But seriously, jets could easily have altered their flight paths to Northern Israel; and the State of Israel could simply have escorted all jets and offered them protection. Although a Hamas-launched rocket landed in Yehud, about a mile from the airport, other means could have been put in place to protect commercial airline passengers. Also, flights could have been diverted to the Eilat regional airports.
To me, this appears to be a ploy to pressure the State of Israel into cease fire negotiations and to help Secretary of State John Kerry in his efforts to end the fighting and killing.
This morning, Richard Andersen, CEO of Delta and Gil West, its COO, stated that Delta made its no fly decision independent of the FAA on Tuesday morning. But the cynic in me will assume that they were contacted by the FAA prior to its pronouncement and Delta might have decided to get ahead of the news, issue its ban, and gain some publicity a day before its earnings report.
This evening I will be flying on 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,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely. The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.
The U.S. Department of State denied using this as a negotiation ploy. Marie Harf, a spokemodel for the State said she wholly disagreed with the arguments that it was made to pressure Israel. She said, “We issue travel warnings because one of our top priorities is protecting U.S. citizens overseas. I would note that in 2012, the department also issued travel warnings for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in March, August and December. So this is a step we have taken when we felt the situation on the ground warranted it.” She added that it is not policy related, nor is it politically motivated.
While I highly doubt the FAA would issue a pronouncement without clearance from State or the White House, Harf said, “On the FAA, we TO MY KNOWLEDGE were not involved in that decision-making. Obviously, we knew it was coming today. I was actually waiting for the announcement to come out before I came out to brief so I had more information. But the FAA makes these decisions when they feel itâ€™s warranted, again for the safety of United States citizens.” She added, “I was on many e-mail chains – this morning – about when the [FAA] statement would actually come out that included my White House colleagues. Thereâ€™s not coordination â€” the FAA makes decisions on its own from a policy perspective. We all â€” we knew â€” you know, I knew a little bit before the briefing, as did the White House, that this was being announced publicly on the communications side. But from a policy perspective, this is a process driven entirely by the FAA.”