(Refiles with correct RIC code for Lufthansa, no changes to
FRANKFURT, July 26 Germany's pilots' union
criticised a decision by Air Berlin and Lufthansa
to resume flights to Israel, ending a ban imposed in
response to fears that rockets fired from the Gaza Strip may hit
Lufthansa and Air Berlin said they will resume flights to
Israel's Ben Gurion Airport on Saturday, the same day a 12-hour
humanitarian truce agreed by Israel and Hamas began.
The truce comes after nearly 3 weeks of conflict in which
940 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed,
along with 37 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians.
Joerg Handwerg, a board member at German pilots' union
Vereinigung Cockpit said the decision seemed driven by political
and economic factors rather than by security reasons.
"We should not be flying to locations where shots are being
fired," Handwerg said. The truce was only temporary and Israel's
rocket defence system appeared unable to hold up all rockets, he
Handwerg said he had demanded that airlines ensure that
staff only agree to go on flights on a voluntary basis.
A spokesman for Lufthansa said the airline was constantly
monitoring the security situation at Tel Aviv airport, using all
available security information.
"A decision on whether or not to fly is made purely on the
basis of security considerations," Lufthansa said.
Lufthansa Group also operates the airlines Germanwings,
Austrian Airlines and Swiss.
The European Cockpit Association, (ECA) which represents
38,000 European pilots from 37 European states, declined to
comment on the lifting of the flight ban, but said they were
concerned about a lack of transparency.
"The main issue is that there is no common understanding of
the risk assessment process being used or assurance that the
assessment for all airline operators is being fed by the best
available intelligence," ECA said in an e-mailed statement.
"This makes it difficult to judge if the security situation
has indeed changed or not, and whether the resulting action
taken is appropriate."
On July 22, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
imposed a ban on flights by U.S. airlines to Ben Gurion,
Israel's main hub, in response to a Palestinian rocket that
struck a building 2 kilometers away from the airport.
The FAA has since lifted the ban.
Israel said the damage was debris from a mid-air rocket
interception by its Iron Dome missile defence system, which it
says has been successful in protecting Ben Gurion Airport, along
with a precautionary measure of narrowing of air corridors.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor and Victoria Bryan; Editing by
Raissa Kasolowsky and Tom Heneghan)