WASHINGTON - Delta Air Lines will extend its suspension of flights to Israel on Wednesday amid hostilities between Israel and the militant group Hamas, its chief executive said on CNBC.
"Today.... we are not flying to Israel, " Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in an interview with CNBC.
His comments come a day after air carriers in the United States and Europe halted flights to Tel Aviv as turmoil in Israel and the Gaza Strip intensified.
The German airline Lufthansa on Wednesday also said it would extend its suspension on flights to Israel for another 24 hours. Other U.S. and European carriers have said they will not fly to Israel until further notice.
The FAA on Tuesday said it told U.S. carriers they were prohibited from flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours, citing “the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza.” On Tuesday a rocket had hit about a mile from the airport.
Anderson said Delta made its decision “decision wholly independent” of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
“We will not allow a flight to be dispatched over Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan or North Korea,” he told CNBC. “We make this decision wholly independent of any geopolitical or regulatory mandate.”
White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken on Wednesday said he had not heard from the FAA yet about whether it would lift the ban or any other details about its plan for flights in the region.
“They've been working very closely with Israeli authorities overnight to see if the concerns raised yesterday could be alleviated and they could lift the notice but I haven't heard from them this morning,” Blinken told CNN in an interview.
Israel has rejected the decision to bar flights to its airport.
“Our airport is safe. Our airport is secure. And we hope the American carriers will be flying to Israel soon,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday.
The decision to halt flights to Israel follows the downing last week of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine with nearly 300 aboard.
LOT halts flights
Polish state airline LOT also suspended its flights to Israel from Warsaw until Monday because of concern for passengers' safety, the airline's spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
"This is caused by the tense situation in the region,'' LOT added in a statement. "The connection will be re-established as soon as possible and when we are sure that our operations are hundred percent safe.''