IATA head slams Israel’s failure to upgrade air safety rank

Giovanni Bisignani says, "It’s unacceptable that when B-G not free, planes land in Cyprus."

311_IATA head with Yisrael Katz (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
311_IATA head with Yisrael Katz
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Giovanni Bisignani, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, chastised Israel on Wednesday for failing to upgrade its US Federal Aviation Administration’s International Aviation Safety Assessment ranking from Category 2 to Category 1.
“Israel has been in Category 2 for far too long. It is a national embarrassment. Moreover, it is a costly situation for Israel’s reputation and for the financial health of its carriers,” Bisignani said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.
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In December 2008, the FAA downgraded Israel’s safety rating to Category 2 following an assessment of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority and in particular its regulation of light, private and sports aviation. With a Category 2 rating, Israeli air carriers are not allowed to establish new service to the United States.
“Let’s be clear. Global standards are not out of reach. Israel’s four IATA member airlines carriers (Arkia Israel Airlines, C.A.L. Cargo Airlines, El Al and Israir Airlines) are on the registry of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) for achieving the highest standards in operational safety management. The regulator must also uphold global standards decided through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” he said.
In a meeting with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Giora Rom, directorgeneral of the Civil Aviation Authority, Bisignani offered Israel the use of IATA’s expertise to speed the Operational Safety Audit process and encouraged Israel to join the growing list of countries that have made IOSA a national requirement.
Bisignani also highlighted the urgent need for Israel to designate an alternate airport to Ben-Gurion Airport to handle operational irregularities. Ovda Airport near Eilat, the previous alternative airport, was closed to scheduled traffic earlier this year.
Larnaca in Cyprus is now the designated alternate should Ben-Gurion become unavailable.
“This is not acceptable and it makes little sense. Airlines face added fuel costs to be able to fly to Larnaca, while charter operators continue to land at Ovda. The government must move quickly to upgrade Ovda or designate a military facility for this purpose,” said Bisignani.
He called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to allow civilian flights to land at air force facilities if Ben-Gurion were unavailable, stressing that an alternate airport is seldom used.
Speaking about the recent attempted terrorist attack, in which bombs were sent from Yemen in cargo shipments addressed to two Chicago synagogues, Bisignani said, “The events of late October were another reminder that aviation security is a constant challenge. We are committed to working together with governments, including Israel, to make a secure industry even more secure. That does not mean reinventing the wheel. Our vision for cargo security combines a supply chain approach, modern technology and intelligence supported by effective information gathering.
“Israel does a great job on cargo security and on December 1, IATA e-freight will help it do even better. By converting freight documentation to electronic format, governments will have access to much greater insight on who is shipping what and where,” he said.
Bisignani concluded with a warning that aviation remained a fragile industry.
“Compared to the previous year, the prospects for the air transport sector have improved tremendously. We expect the industry to return a global profit of $8.9 billion in 2010. But that is just a 1.6 percent margin and it will get much tougher next year. We expect profits to drop to $5.3b. in 2011, a margin of 0.9%. Aviation is a business, not a charity association. Just to cover our cost of capital, we would need margins of 7% to 8%.”