Air Canada cancels flights to Israel amid reports of rocket fire
People sit inside Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv in a January 5, 2010 file photo. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/files)
Air Canada said it is cancelling flights to Israel due to growing unrest in the region.
A Tuesday morning flight left for Tel Aviv and a second flight scheduled for 6:18 p.m. ET was set to go ahead "pending further notice," spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said in an e-mail.
But minutes later, Air Canada changed its mind, tweeting that all flights to Israel were cancelled until further notice.
We have cancelled our Tel Aviv flight tonight AC84 YYZ-TLV and return AC85 TLV-YYZ 23/07. Will continue to evaluate going forward & update.— Air Canada (@AirCanada) July 22, 2014
The United States Federal Aviation Administration has suspended all flights to Israel after reports of rocket attacks near Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
Before that announcement, Delta said it was cancelling flights "to ensure the safety and security of ... customers and employees." A flight already on its way to Tel Aviv Tuesday was diverted to Paris.
BREAKING: The FAA just issued a notice prohibiting U.S. airlines from flying to or from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel for up to 24 hours— Mark Berman (@themarkberman) July 22, 2014
A short time later, Dutch flag carrier KLM said it was cancelling its Amsterdam-Tel Aviv flight and Air France suspended all flights until further notice.
U.S. carriers Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group and United Airlines were the first to announce cancellations, followed by flight stoppages by European carriers, including Germany's Lufthansa.
Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest carrier, also said it halted its flights through Wednesday, citing the situation on the ground.
The flight stoppages came after Hamas, the militant group that dominates in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.
"The carriers are making the right call," said Robert Mann, an airline consultant in Port Washington, New York. "They are ultimately legally responsible for their operations and thus, they have to be at least as cautious and in many cases more cautious than any guideline that they are given."
The FAA said it told U.S. carriers that they were prohibited from flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours. In a statement, the agency said its notice was issued in response to a rocket strike on Tuesday that landed about a mile from the airport.
The text of the FAA notice cited "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza" in prohibiting the flights by U.S. carriers.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for U.S. airlines to resume flights to Israel.
"There is no need for U.S. carriers to suspend flights and reward terrorism," said a statement from Israel's Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
- with files from Reuters