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DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO TEL AVIV?
By Joe Brancatelli
When a Hamas missile landed within a mile of Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, several U.S. airlines immediately cancelled flights to Israel. Then the Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. carriers from flying to Tel Aviv for several days. Many European airlines followed suit and made Tel Aviv a virtual no-fly zone. Israel wasn't pleased by the decision--and some U.S. politicians grumbled. But coming so soon after the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster, few flyers complained. Here's how we covered it. Like a travel blog, Pinter play or one episode of Seinfeld, read backward since the latest item is on top.

7/25/14, 10:15AM ET, FRIDAY
LUFTHANSA, AIR FRANCE FLY AGAIN

A sure sign things are getting back to normal, or at least as normal can be as Israel and Hamas continue fighting: The Lufthansa Group says that its flights to Tel Aviv resume tomorrow. That includes service from Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, Brussels and Germanwings. Meanwhile, Air France says that its flights to Israel resume tonight.

7/24/14, 10PM ET, THURSDAY
CRUZ MISSILES

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) never misses an opportunity to attack the Obama Administration, but this time the Tea Party favorite really does seem to be living (and campaigning) in his own private Idaho.

He claims the FAA's decision to temporarily ban flights to Tel Aviv is an "economic boycott" of Israel launched by the Obama Administration. That, of course, ignores the indisputable fact that Delta and American, two of the three U.S. carriers serving Tel Aviv, had cancelled their flights Tuesday morning well before the FAA announced the first day of its ban. (It also flies in the face of comments by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who opposed the FAA ban but accused CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer of bias for even suggesting the agency had a political motive.)

Of course, nothing derails Cruz, especially facts. He doubled down on his criticism on Fox News last night, wondering why the FAA was banning flights to Tel Aviv when it doesn't ban flights to Yemen or Pakistan or the Ukraine. Apparently, no one told Cruz that no U.S. carrier serves any of those destinations--and hasn't for years. He also complained that the FAA doesn't stop overflights of the Ukraine even though the FAA banned routes over Crimea this spring and put the Ukraine off-limits immediately after last Thursday's shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

And in retaliation for the Obama Administration's dismissal of his fly-by-night theories, Cruz announced that he'll use his Senatorial prerogative to block confirmations of ambassadors and other State Department appointments.

7/24/14, 9:30PM ET, THURSDAY
U.S. AIRLINES FLY, SOME EUROPEANS DON'T

U.S. carriers say they are resuming flights to Tel Aviv and several have already departed. Air Canada's Toronto-Tel Aviv nonstop has also departed on schedule. On the other hand, The Lufthansa Group says its airlines won't begin flying to Tel Aviv until tomorrow at the earliest and Air France says its flights remain off the board until further notice. Air Berlin's flights are off the board as well and EasyJet has cancelled many of today's flights from Europe to Tel Aviv.

7/24/14, 9:30AM ET, THURSDAY
FAA RELENTS, BUT U.S. CARRIERS WARY

Just before midnight yesterday, the FAA officially lifted its ban on U.S. carriers flying into Tel Aviv. Here's the verbiage: http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=16734

However, it doesn't look like any of the U.S. carriers serving Tel Aviv are flying yet. None has publicly stated that service will resume and everything scheduled to arrive through 9PM Tel Aviv time is showing cancelled.

Moreover, most European carriers continue to cancel their service into Tel Aviv. That includes the Lufthansa Group of carriers, Alitalia, Air Berlin, and Air France. Turkish Airways and Iberia have cancelled some of their flights today.

Also notable: EasyJet, the London/Gatwick-based discounter that operates to Tel Aviv from several European cities, has cancelled most of today's flights. It had been running a full schedule to Tel Aviv in recent days.

British Airways continues to fly via London as does El Al, which has maintained its full U.S. schedule throughout. Arkia, another Israeli carrier, is flying its schedule from Europe. And, if you dare, Russian carriers Aeroflot, Transaero and S7 are flying. So is Ukraine International from Kiev, which means you could fly JFK-Kiev-Tel Aviv. I mean, if you're willing to fly through TWO hot zones.

7/23/14, 1PM ET, WEDNESDAY
FAA EXTENDS BAN, GLOBAL CARRIERS AGREE

The Federal Aviation Administration has extended its ban on U.S. carriers flying to Tel Aviv for at least another 24 hours and most international airlines continue to observe their own restrictions.

The FAA announcement, which came moments ago, bars the U.S. carriers from running their schedule to Tel Aviv. Here's the official verbiage: http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=16714&cid=TW236

However, do not be deceived: U.S. carriers didn't need the FAA to make their decisions. Delta Air Lines has suspended its Tel Aviv flights indefinitely and there's been no word that United or American/US Airways are anxious to resume service.

Internationally, the Lufthansa Group has suspended its flights to Tel Aviv on Lufthansa, Brussels, Austrian and Swiss. The suspension lasts at least until tomorrow, Thursday (July 24). The one exception: Swiss puts its code on a Zurich-Tel Aviv flight that is operated by El Al. That flight will continue.

Air France/KLM has suspended its flights to Tel Aviv "until further notice." Most other international carriers offering connecting service to Israel via their U.S. departures have also temporarily dropped flights to Ben Gurion. That includes Turkish Airlines, Iberia, Alitalia and others. Air Canada has also cancelled today.

So who is flying to Tel Aviv from the United States? El Al continues to operate. British Airways is operating its normal schedule via London/Heathrow. And, if you want to do it, Aeroflot is still operating via Moscow and Ukraine International is still flying via Kiev.

Meanwhile, here are the current travel waivers:

DELTA is allowing changes on booked tickets until at least August 15: http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/advisories/israel-unrest.html

AMERICAN is allowing changes on booked tickets until at least July 31: http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/travelAlerts.jsp

US AIRWAYS is allowing changes on booked tickets until at least July 31: http://www.usairways.com/TravelCenter/Advisories.aspx

UNITED is allowing changes on booked tickets until at least August 15: http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/news/Pages/travelnotices.aspx?v_ctrk=HHLN$0-772-6774-1-4884#ExceptionPolicies

7/22/14, 2PM ET, TUESDAY
FAA PUTS TEL AVIV OFF-LIMITS

Flights going into Tel Aviv are being cancelled in great numbers after a rocket landed within a mile of Ben Gurion Airport this morning.

Delta and American/US Airways started cancellations almost immediately and a Delta flight en route to TLV actually turned back and landed in Paris. The Lufthansa Group of carriers (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian) had cancelled its Tel Aviv flights today, too.

Just after noon Eastern Time, the FAA issued a 24-hour ban on TLV flights and that led United to cancel its operations. Here's the text of the FAA order: http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=16694&cid=TW235

Needless to say, the next few days are going to be difficult if you're headed to Tel Aviv. Expect cancellations without much advance notice. The FAA may not extend its ban, but the U.S. carriers especially will be slow to restore service. If you are flying connecting services on international carriers, make sure you have back-up ground accommodations if the TLV leg cancels abruptly.

Here are the current U.S. airline travel waivers:
DELTA http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/advisories/israel-unrest.html

AMERICAN http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/travelAlerts.jsp

UNITED http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/news/Pages/travelnotices.aspx?v_ctrk=HHLN$0-772-6774-1-4884#ExceptionPolicies

US AIRWAYS http://www.usairways.com/TravelCenter/Advisories.aspx

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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.

This column is Copyright 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.