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FAA Suspends US Flights to Tel Aviv – Options for Travelers

by on July 23, 2014 · 28 comments

in Air Canada, Airline Industry, American, Delta, Travel Industry, Travel Insurance, United, US Airways

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After a combat missile launched from Gaza landed approximately one mile from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) early Tuesday, the FAA grounded all U.S. flights to Tel Aviv for 24 hours (through 12:15 pm Wednesday EDT), by which time they will further advise. In the meantime, the European Air Safety Agency has issued a strong recommendation that European carriers also ground service to Tel Aviv. In the wake of last week’s devastating missile attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over the eastern Ukraine (and Malaysia Airline’s subsequent offer of refunds on all its flights through 2014), some North American and European carriers have taken their risk assessment a step further, opting to suspend service to all airports in Israel, in some cases indefinitely.

As of Tuesday's nearby missile explosion, all US flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) have been grounded (Image courtesy of Flik47 / Shutterstock)

As of Tuesday’s nearby missile explosion, all US flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) have been grounded (Image courtesy of Flik47/Shutterstock)

Carriers Suspending Flights and Their Cancellation Policies

At present, major carriers Air Canada, Air France, American, Delta, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss, United and US Airways have suspended service to either Tel Aviv or all of Israel. These airlines will all attempt to contact their affected customers with updates about their flights, but for those passengers booked on North American carriers, here’s what you can expect, based on their cancellation policies:

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Air Canada: The airline has cancelled tonight’s one flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv. In the event of cancellations, the airline generally rebooks passengers on the next available Air Canada flight within seven days of the original travel date, and if necessary, they can also change the return to match the length of stay. If the next available flight doesn’t depart until the next day (Air Canada is monitoring the situation in Tel Aviv), the airline will cover certain expenses to eligible customers when a flight is canceled due, as in this case, to reasons within Air Canada’s control; airport agents will help customers determine if they’re eligible for meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, and transportation to and from the airport.

If you’re booked on an impending Air Canada flight, you can cancel your booking and Air Canada will offer you the option of either retaining the unused portion of the ticket and using it for future Air Canada travel, or obtaining a refund for the unused portion of the ticket. Affected passengers are encouraged to call Air Canada information at 1 (888) 422-7533.

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American Airlines: American has suspended its one affected route, a PHL-TLV flight operated by US Airways, until further notice. If you purchased a refundable ticket directly from American, you can submit a refund request online, submit a request by mail, or take the ticket either to an American kiosk at the nearest airport or to one of American’s Travel Centers. If you purchased an electronic ticket, you may call reservations at 1 (800) 433-7300 to request a refund. Refunds will be processed back to the original form of payment.

While non-refundable tickets generally can’t be refunded, in the case of the FAA’s ruling (subject to certain restrictions and charges defined in the fare rules), you can choose to postpone your trip by canceling your original flight before its scheduled departure time and applying the value of your unused, non-refundable ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket that must be used within one year of the issue date on the original ticket.

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Delta: This morning, Delta’s daily JFK-TLV flight was already in the air (with 273 passengers and 17 crew aboard) when the missile struck near TLV; the plane was quickly re-routed to Paris’ CDG, where it landed without incident. Note that Delta generally has no liability if a flight is canceled or diverted due to conditions outside of its control, but if you’re a passenger in this sort of situation, you can ask Delta to cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion (as well as unused ancillary fees) in the original form of payment. If you don’t request a refund and cancellation of the ticket, Delta will simply transport you to your destination on their next flight with available seats in the class you originally purchased.

If you’re booked on a Delta flight to Tel Aviv and feel skittish about traveling, you may request a refund online or call the airline’s toll-free number 1 (800) 325-1999, but as of this writing, I’m unable to confirm whether every refund request will be granted. If your upcoming flight is affected by continued suspensions or a cancellation, the airline will attempt to contact you with updates.

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United Airlines: If you’re delayed at the airport as a result of this suspension, United will provide you with the local equivalent of one night’s lodging. Otherwise, you may either wait for the next available United flight in your originally booked class; request United’s help in an attempt to reroute you on a carrier that may choose to resume service before it does (such as El Al, which as you’ll see below, will continue its service to Israel), again booking you a seat in an equivalent class; or apply the value of your ticket toward future travel on United within one year from the original date of issue, without incurring a change or reissue fee.

If United’s flights to Israel continue to be suspended indefinitely and you don’t choose the future travel angle, you’ll be eligible for a refund, either by submitting your request online or by calling United at 1 (800) 864-8331.

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US Airways: The airline has suspended its one affected route, a PHL-TLV flight that it codeshares with American, until further notice. US Airways’ policy towards its suspension-affected passengers is similar to United’s: you may either wait for the next available US Airways flight in your originally booked class; request US Airways’ help in an attempt to reroute you with a seat in an equivalent class; or opt for a refund either online or by calling 1 (800) 428-4322.

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The departures board at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

Other Options

If your flight to Israel has already been suspended or cancelled, be aware that trip insurance provided by some credit cards could help. Some cards offer travel insurance for cancellations or delays; however, those benefits usually apply only in select circumstances (illness, family emergency, lost or stolen travel documents, etc.), and it’s unclear whether geopolitical events would qualify. You’ll have to check with the issuer of the card you used to pay for your flights (or the taxes and fees if you’re on an award flight) to see if you’re covered. If not, many cards also offer complimentary concierge services that can at least help you find hotels and re-book flights if you’re stranded.

If you’re traveling soon to Israel but your particular flights haven’t yet been suspended or canceled – or your airline hasn’t yet decided to suspend/cancel their flights – you might consider purchasing supplementary travel insurance like AirCare, a new flight insurance product that can be purchased for $25 as late as one hour before your flight’s scheduled departure.

Avoiding Danger is the Key

Israelis and Hamas militants have been fighting in the Gaza Strip since July 8. So far, Tuesday’s rocket explosion is the closest that harm has come to TLV. However, in light of the recent Malaysia Airlines’ tragedy, I can certainly understand why airlines are being especially cautious about flying in potentially dangerous zones.

Shortly after the FAA made its decision to suspend U.S. flights to Tel Aviv, Israel’s Transportation Ministry urged the FAA - as well as individual airlines with service to TLV – to reverse the decision, insisting that the airport is well-guarded, prepared for acts of terrorism, and safe for landings and departures. Taking heed, El Al and Royal Jordanian Airlines will continue their usual service to and from Tel Aviv.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Israeli and Palestinian people, and all those affected, and we can only hope that travelers to and from the area remain safe.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • SeaBee3

    I can definitely understand the FAA and airlines wanting to be cautious, but I can also see Israel’s and El Al’s side as well. The similarities between this and the MH17 situation are vastly different with rockets coming from Gaza being very limited in aim (and the Dome has stopped many).
    Just one note: there have actually been 600 deaths, not 27.

  • Gwayrav

    France24′s Arabic Twitter announced that the Jordanian carrier has suspended flights to Tel Aviv.

  • frequenttraveler

    Thank you for the information. I am just utterly surprised that you are noting 27 deaths where as the whole world is getting information of 600+ deaths. May I inquire why you are not verifying figures before stating it here ?

  • tpup

    27 deaths? That’s just the number of Israelis killed. Did you not include the 600+ Palestinians killed so far because they don’t qualify for any mileage programs?

  • shay peleg

    I think he is talking about civilian deaths pretty sure we got 500 Hamas operatives in this operation

  • shay peleg

    99% of the Palestinians killed were Hamas aka terrorists

  • Em

    no civil israeli was killed. Most of the 600 palestinians killed are children and women. TPG, it is funny when you cite ” Israelis and Hamas militants have been fighting” . Who are you kidding!!!

  • Em

    Liar. Shame on you.

  • shay peleg

    Hmm Hmm the goal of the war is to kill Hamas operatives with pin point tactics . I believe a hospital was also setup in gaza to help out (Israeli run) . I don’t think they should stop until rockets stop firing on Israel. Would this be ok for Americans? if missiles were shot on the states daily? confused

  • shay peleg

    p.s why the fuck why would Hamas put a center of Hamas operatives in a hospital? Hamas is fucked up

  • Yankees

    TGP was writing about flying to Israel and it’s potential danger therefore pointing out how many people have died in Israel as a result. Leave the guy alone he’s trying to give some helpful knowledge and advice. TPG keep it up and don’t get intimidated.

  • John

    Seriously! 27 deaths! Have you been watching the news?! The number is 682 Palestinians, 75% of them are civilians, including over 200 children. And 27 Israeli soldiers. Palestinians ae humans too, they have names and faces, they are not just numbers. They used to have an airport in Gaza before Israel destroyed as part of the siege it imposed on Gaza 8 years ago.Shame on you.

  • thepointsguy

    We removed the death toll information as this post was never meant to be political.

  • Daniel

    Except he was literally like the last blogger to write about it. With a staff, he should have been out in front of it with options. Further, I think you would agree that if the point was to illustrate the potential danger, 27 people dead vs. 600+ is quite a difference, yes?

  • Yankees

    If there would have flights to Gaza it would have been the place to write about the 600+ dead. My point is that TPG was trying to be helpful to those affected. This is not a place to bash him. You don’t have to like his choice of words.

  • John

    Thanks! Just for fun..If I wanted to visit Gaza, what’s the best way to get there (not in an Israeli tank)? Or even better, if I was one of the 1.8 million Palestians trapped in Gaza, how the hell can I get out of there(alive)? Air, sea, land? ..let me know..good luck finding an answer :)

  • STEVE from NYC

    steve from NYC

  • STEVE from NYC

    I returned from Israel a few days ago, and would not hesitate to return today. Travel there is safe, and it’s an amazing country. Interesting, that the Israeli Defense Forces use their rockets to protect their citizens, while the Hamas government in Gaza use their citizens to protect their rockets.

  • Brian C. Lee
  • Lo

    Isn’t AirCare only for domestic flights?

  • Cup

    Violence is a self-perpetuating cycle. Defending oneself is a right; attacking aggressors is understandable. However, when the root of the problem is not solved at the end of the day, everything just becomes senseless violence.

  • Cup

    Good thing there are a few airlines that WILL fly there.

  • Jar

    “early Tuesday, the FAA grounded all U.S. flights to Tel Aviv”
    “some North American and European carriers have taken their risk
    assessment a step further, opting to suspend service to all airports in
    Israel”

    Huh? That doesn’t make any sense. What North American carrier flies to an airport in Israel other than TLV?

  • Farah Arif

    XCUSE ME N BEG ME UR PARDON . im shell shocked de death toll according to dis read is 27 are u kidding me.???….where as the whole world is getting information of 600+ deaths. May I plzz inquire why you are not verifying figures before stating it here ?Seriously! 27 deaths! Have you been watching the news?! The number is 682 Palestinians, 75% of them are civilians, including over 200 children. And 27 Israeli soldiers. Palestinians ae humans too, they have names and faces, they are not just numbers. They used to have an airport in Gaza before Israel destroyed as part of the siege it imposed on Gaza 8 years ago.SHAME AN UTTER SHAME :(

  • Jonathan

    Faa ban has been removed

  • Steve from NYC

    Farah, Israelis I’ve met mourn the loss of any life. It’s an outrage that Hamas was voted to be the government in Gaza, as it’s charter calls for the destruction of an entire nation. It’s more of an outrage they stock ammunition and launch their rocket attacks from within their own CIVILIAN population. Hamas is responsible for the deaths of the people residing in Gaza. The Gaza population should overthrow that evil regime and talk peace. What a shame so many mothers in Gaza talk of raising “Jihadists”. Work to change the mindset of your people.
    Peace.

  • lookcle
  • Sheryar

    “launch their rocket attacks from within their own CIVILIAN population”

    Lets talk with facts and figures. Gaza is only 139 Sq. miles(360 Sq KM) with 1.8 Million population. This makes it world’s 13th largest population in the world (from http://www.wikipedia.com). Obviously they don’t attack other countries and capture their land in order to expand like Israel do.

    Also I would like to add the below facts:

    …YOU…

    Take My Water

    Burn My Trees

    Destroy My Houses

    Take My Job

    Steal My Land

    Imprison My Father

    Kill My Mother

    Bomb My Country

    Starve us All

    Humiliate us All

    …BUT…

    I am to Blame: I shot a rocket back???

    Try to understand and be honest in considering “What is PEACE?”

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