Ben Gurion planes refueling from emergency reserves

Passengers at Ben Gurion airport still stranded, flights still grounded after jet fuel contamination grounds dozens of flights, prevents arrivals.

May 5, 2011 20:52
2 minute read.
Ben Gurion airport

Ben Gurion airport 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Flights out of Ben-Gurion Airport were expected to resume late Thursday night following a frantic day of cancellations and stranded passengers due to contamination in the airport's aviation fuel supply.

By Thursday evening the airport began dipping into its fuel reserves, and tanker trucks were bringing in millions of liters in an attempt to alleviate the situation, which had left thousands of passengers without a way to leave the country.

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Editorial: Keep our airport safe

El Al, which canceled 20 flights, said it would offer refunds and alternative flights, and Israir said it would supply buses to Eilat for passengers whose flights to the southern resort were canceled.

Apart from the international flights, all domestic flights were canceled due to the contaminated fuel.

Of thirteen flights that were grounded on Thursday, six were expected to take off overnight Thursday and the remaining seven on Friday morning.

Approximately 1,500 passengers suffered delays because of the cancelations.

Most of the Israeli passengers who were due to leave on Thursday night stayed at the terminal, while those who were expected to take off on Friday returned home.

People whose flights were canceled were offered to choose between a refund or an exchange ticket to their destination at a later date at no extra charge, an El Al spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post.

She added that most passengers were local so there was need for the airline to book hotel rooms for them.

But some Israeli passengers coming back from European destinations were stuck in Europe, as the planes they were intended to board would need to refuel after landing in Ben Gurion. These passengers were offered a free night at a hotel room.

Following the discovery of the contamination, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) issued a statement calling for the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) called the incident ³a grievous matter² and said he had instructed ministry officials to launch an emergency probe as to how the contamination occurred. He added that clearing the stranded flights was an immediate priority and promised to ensure that the necessary fuel was supplied.

The fuel contamination was initially discovered a week and a half ago, but no action was taken. When questioned by reporters on Thursday evening, Katz said there had been no danger to passengers over the past week and a half.

Only planes with enough fuel to make their destination were allowed to depart the airport.

Adar Avisar, spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority, said the cause of the contamination was not yet known and that it had been spotted early enough in the day by the relevant authorities to make sure no aircraft took off with tainted fuel.

³There are no planes in the air that have received an order to land,² he said.

Flights that were scheduled to land at or depart from Ben-Gurion on Thursday were landing in Cyprus and Jordan for refueling during the day.

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