Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel on Tuesday in protest of the Federation Aviation Administration's decision to halt American flights to and from the country.
On his twitter account, Bloomberg wrote, "This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel."
The billionaire industrialist made the announcement hours after air travel to Israel from all American carriers and several European ones came to a halt on Tuesday, when the FAA banned US airlines from traveling to and from Ben-Gurion Airport for 24 hours.
The decision followed the successful firing of a Hamas rocket into a house in Yehud
, near Ben-Gurion Airport, earlier in the day.
"The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately," the former mayor said.
“The FAA immediately notified US carriers when the agency learned of the rocket strike and informed them that the agency was finalizing a [Notice to Airmen]” prohibiting the flights, an FAA statement read.
American aviation companies Delta and United Airlines said they were suspending flights to Israel “indefinitely,” while US Airways reportedly only suspended flights for the night.
Soon after the FAA decision, Lufthansa announced a 36-hour suspension, which included subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss, and Air France announced its own indefinite suspension.
“As soon as the FAA gives such an order to US carriers, in most cases it’s a domino effect, and most European carriers will be forced to suspend their flights,” said an industry source.
The European Aviation Safety Agency was also expected to release a “strong recommendation” against flying to Israel, according to several media sources.
Delta diverted flight 468 from JFK, which was already en route to Tel Aviv with 273 passengers and 17 crew members, to Charles de Gaulle in Paris “after reports of a rocket or associated debris near the airport in Tel Aviv,” and said that it was working to accommodate its customers.
Earlier in the conflict, Korean Air suspended operations for a week.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday evening, and asked him to help restore regular flights to Israel from the US.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz called on American aviation companies to return to normal functioning, stressing that Ben-Gurion Airport was safe for take-offs and landings, and that there was no security concern for passenger planes.
“There is no reason for the American companies to stop their flights and give a prize to terror,” he said.
Hamas has explicitly targeted the airport in hopes of stopping or slowing air traffic.
Thus far some 80 flights in total that were scheduled to take place between 6:00 p.m. Tuesday and 6:00 p.m. Wednesday have been canceled.
Israeli aviation authorities have been in touch with FAA officials seeking to reassure them that proper air defense and safety precautions were in place. The FAA is expected to announce on Wednesday whether to maintain the suspension of flights to Israel.
Meanwhile, El Al is boosting service to Western destinations in order to help stranded Israelis return home. Israel's national carrier announced that it would send a jumbo jet to service passengers on Flight 347 to Zurich instead of the usual Boeing 737 model. El Al has also sent larger planes to Brussels and Bucharest while adding flights to Cyprus and Greece.