The head of the American Airlines pilots union has told his members to refuse to operate any flights to Israel until the Allied Pilots Association is “reasonably assured of the region’s safety and security”.
In light of the unprecedented security situation in Israel, American Airlines has temporarily halted flights to Tel Aviv after managing to evacuate its crews out of Israel on Saturday evening.
It’s now known how long American Airlines intends to suspend its operations in Tel Aviv, although there still remains massive demand from Israeli citizens around the world to return home, including as part of the Israel Defense Force’s call for reservists.
However, if American Airlines does attempt to restart flights from New York JFK to Tel Aviv in the near future, Captain Ed Sicher, who is president of the Allied Pilots Association, has told his members to refuse any assignment to Israel because Israel is a ‘war zone’.
“It is not prudent or appropriate to knowingly put our flight crews and passengers in harm’s way by maintaining flights into a war zone,” Sicher said on Sunday, as flagged by Live and Let’s Fly.
“After careful consideration, I am directing all pilots to cease flight operations to Israel until we can be reasonably assured of the region’s safety and security,” Captain Sicher continued.
“Until further notice, if you are scheduled, assigned, or reassigned a pairing into Israel, refuse the assignment by calling your Chief Pilot”.
The APA says refusing to fly to Israel would be in line with State Department travel advice, which hasn’t actually been updated since October 3 when American citizens were advised to “exercise increased caution” while visiting Israel due to the threat of terrorism and civil unrest.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a notice to air missions, advising U.S. carriers to “exercise extreme caution” if they operate flights to Israel but has not outright warned against flying to the country.
Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport remains open, although there have been sporadic temporary closures due to rocket attacks from Gaza. On Monday, one rocket exploded within the outer perimeter of the airport, although there were no injuries or damage reported.
Both Delta and United Airlines have also suspended flights to Israel, although local carrier El Al is attempting to increase capacity to meet the demand in the United States.
Most European airlines have also withdrawn from Israel, with the notable exception of British Airways, Iberia and Virgin Atlantic, which are operating flights to Israel. All three airlines used to have crew layovers in Tel Aviv but are now operating flights to Israel as turnarounds.
U.S. carriers would have additional challenges operating flights to Tel Aviv but could operate a shuttle from nearby Cyprus, where the crew would layover in safety.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.