German Pilots Balk at Flying to Israel

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) -

Germany’s pilots’ union criticized 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 endanger aircraft.

Lufthansa and Air Berlin said flights will resume to Ben Gurion Airport over the weekend.

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.

Handwerg said airlines must ensure that staff only go on flights on a voluntary basis.

A spokesman for Lufthansa said the airline was constantly monitoring the security situation at the 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 emailed statement.

“This makes it difficult to judge if the security situation has indeed changed or not, and whether the resulting action taken is appropriate.”