American Airlines Pilot Union Tells Pilots To Refuse To Fly To Israel

The union representing pilots at Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines is warning its members not to fly to Israel out of safety concerns due to the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. It comes after Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) in Tel Aviv has been reportedly announced as a specific target.

Several airlines, including all US-based carriers, have canceled flights to TLV. Video on social media shows some passengers stranded at the airport, taking cover due to the ongoing crisis.

Safety and security concerns

Ed Sicher, the President of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union that represents American’s pilots, sent an email to members advising them to refrain from flying to Israel until “they can be reasonably assured” of safety and security in the region, according to ABC News. Last week, the US State Department warned that the current situation in Israel is unpredictable.

“Terrorist groups, lone-wolf terrorists and other violent extremists continue plotting possible attacks in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.”

Sicher cited the State Department’s advisory, given that mortar and rocket attacks that are dangerous threats to aircraft can occur at any time without warning.

“It is not prudent or appropriate to knowingly put our flight crews and passengers in harm’s way by maintaining flights into a war zone,” the APA President said.

Simple Flying contacted the APA for comment on Monday but did not receive an immediate response.

Taking cover at the airport

On Saturday, passengers who had just arrived at TLV were seen taking cover after a surprise attack by Hamas militants struck Israel.

According to Reuters, major international airlines have suspended or scaled back flights to or from TLV and are waiting for the safety conditions to improve. Around half of the airport’s scheduled flights reportedly did not operate on Sunday, with 1,100 total cancelations. Nearly 20,000 flights were delayed on Sunday, according to FlightAware. As of 17:00 EST on Monday, TLV reported 1,021 cancelations and 17,000 delays.

US carriers halt flights

American suspended direct flights to TLV on Sunday along with Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Chicago-based United Airlines after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly urged US airlines to exercise caution when flying in Israeli airspace.

According to Live and Let’s Fly, American operated an extra flight to evacuate crews, employees, and family. The airline canceled AA145 from TLV to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York due to the conflict on Saturday. It operated AA9602 instead from TLV to JFK with working crew members and non-rev employees onboard. The flight, operated by a Boeing 777-200ER, departed TLV at 21:50 local time and arrived at JFK at 01:56 on Sunday.

American, Delta, and United have issued travel waivers to affected passengers, allowing them to rebook their flights, according to USA TODAY. United’s waiver also reportedly covers flights to and from Amman, Jordan.

By Mian Saeed Ahmed Khan