The U.S. Department of Transportation has filed a complaint with Israel, noting that El Al has continued to fly “repatriation” flights while U.S. carriers have been locked out.
U.S. Files Complaint Against Israel After
Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv has been closed since last January to almost all air traffic, as Israel tries to control the spread of virus and vaccinate its population. Originally intended to last a week, the airport closure has been extended to February 20th and will likely be extended even longer.
While Delta and United continue cargo operations to Tel Aviv, they are not allowed to transport any passengers. Meanwhile, El Al Israeli Airlines has been allowed to operate a limited number of flights with passengers on a “humanitarian” or “repatriation” basis.
A Delta spokesperson noted:
“Delta is not currently operating passenger services between Israel and the United States because of the ongoing government restrictions. Delta’s application for authority to operate flights to repatriate people in both directions was denied by the government of Israel.”
Enter the U.S. DOT, which is using the mechanism of the Open Skies Agreement between the USA and Israel to lodge a formal complaint, the first step in a process which could see Israeli airlines blocked from the USA.
The 2010 agreement holds:
Each Party shall allow a fair and equal opportunity for the airlines of both Parties to compete in providing the international air transportation governed by this Agreement.
An Israeli official told CNN that the move was intended to stop the spread of virus, not give El Al an unfair advantage
While a formal complaint, known as a Part 213 Order, has been launched, it is likely merely a formality and the issue will be solved once TLV Airport re-opens.
Let’s call this what it is…a chance to boost the home team. That’s hardly unique in this era with Air India pulling the same tricks and nations around the world bailing out their flag carriers. In this case, however, it should soon be resolved once Israel re-opens.
image: Adam Moreira