Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Norwegian Air have both suspended their Tel Aviv routes until further notice, due to security reasons. A number of other international airlines have also suspended flights leaving passengers stranded, but Israel argued there was no reason to stop flying into the country.
SAS decided to cancel a flight from Copenhagen on Tuesday night and another from Stockholm early on Wednesday morning. Norwegian Air also suspended all flights. It followed a rocket attack which hit a house a few kilometers north of Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday.
“The situation has escalated today, and we are doing this because of security concerns for our passengers and staff,” press spokeswoman Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson told news bureau NTB on Tuesday night. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not made any recommendations regarding Israeli airspace.
By Wednesday morning about 170 SAS passengers bound for Stockholm had been left stranded in Tel Aviv, alongside 103 Norwegian Air travellers. A further 186 passengers on Friday’s flight to Copenhagen could be affected, if the flight ban was not lifted. “We have sent out information by SMS, and we’re working to get them home as soon as possible,” said Jacobsson.
She said Norwegian was looking at re-booking passengers onto airlines still operating the route. Israeli airline El Al brought in extra planes to help move stranded travelers.
The US Federal Aviation Authority also suspended all routes to Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, reported news agency AFP. Norway’s aviation body said it was waiting on an assessment by European air safety authorities before deciding whether to follow suit on a blanket ban. On Tuesday night, the authority said it “strongly recommended” airlines avoid Tel Aviv in the immediate future. Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines and KLM all halted their flights.
“There is no reason for the Americans to stop flying to Israel,” a Ben Gurion airport spokesman told US broadcaster CNN. “They reward terrorism with these measures.”