The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its ban on U.S. flights to Israel, which it had imposed out of concern over the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.
“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,” said an FAA statement, which lifted the ban as of 11:45 p.m. EDT.
“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 on flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv in response to a rocket strike that landed about a mile from the airport.
The directive, which had been extended earlier on Wednesday, applied only to U.S. carriers. It had been criticized by the Israeli government and by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
Delta plans independent review
Delta Air Lines, which diverted a jet away from Tel Aviv before Tuesday’s ban by the FAA, will not necessarily resume flights, 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,” he said on a conference call.
The FAA’s no-fly decisions relied on a little-known group within the agency that reads classified intelligence reports and making recommendations to protect airlines from danger, said Rebecca MacPherson, a former FAA lawyer who participated in its work.
Often the group stops short of barring flights altogether and instead issues risk warnings that allow airlines to use their own discretion and caution for flying over trouble spots, MacPherson said.
The agency had closed some flight lanes farther south over Crimea to U.S. airlines in April.
The FAA also has banned U.S. carriers from flying over such places as North Korea, Libya and northern Ethiopia, and has issued warnings or partial restrictions on flights above other nations, including Iraq and Syria.
The FAA tends to err on the side of safety, while other agencies “might want to massage things a little bit differently,” MacPherson said.
This report includes material from Bloomberg News.