U.S. Airports Lose Approval for Direct General Aviation Flights to Israel

PT 3 M minute read

Effective May 9, 2024, Israel decided to no longer allow direct general aviation flights from the United States to Israel due to security concerns. Universal Trip Support Services met with Israel’s Aviation Security Operation Center (ASOC) manager to discuss the new policy changes. Here’s what you need to know.

New Policy and Options for GA Flights from U.S. to Israel

Following audits at several U.S. airports, the ASOC discovered that GA flights were not subject to the same rigorous security screening as commercial flights. Consequently, the decision was made to remove all U.S. airports from the approved departures list.

As detailed in a memorandum issued on May 9, there are currently no approved airports in the U.S. for direct GA flights to Israel. GA operators wishing to fly directly to Israel from the U.S. must choose from the following options:

  1. Hire an ASOC-Approved Security Company: Conduct a security screening and search of passengers and luggage prior to departure from the U.S.
  2. Preferred Carrier/Aircraft Program: Private aircraft can apply for this program, allowing direct flights from any U.S. airport to Israel after obtaining the necessary permissions. However, to be considered for this program, requires using the same crew and passenger list – even adding guests would disqualify one from eligibility. Therefore, this is not a feasible option for charter operators.
  3. Stopover in Europe: Land at an approved European airport for a security check before continuing to Israel.

Emphasis on Option 1

ASOC expects most GA flights to opt for the first option, as only a few flight departments will likely qualify for the Preferred Carrier/Aircraft Program. Currently, two ASOC-vetted companies in the U.S. are capable of performing pre-departure screenings. These companies can travel to any U.S. airport to conduct the necessary checks, with costs borne by the operator. Failing this, flights must stop at an approved European airport for screening.

Preferred Carrier/Aircraft Program – Not a Feasible Option for Charter Operators

This program is designed for private flight operators with established flight crews serving a small number of frequent passengers to Israel (thus making this unfeasible for charter ops). Once approved, these aircraft can operate directly from any unauthorized U.S. airport to Israel without a pre-departure security screening. Standard landing permit application procedures still apply, but requests will be expedited due to the operator’s known reputation.

Approval for this program can take three months and is valid for one year, subject to continuous compliance monitoring and an annual review for renewal. ASOC will conduct a home base inspection to review security and operational procedures and train the crew. The operator must cover all associated travel costs for ASOC officers. Non-U.S.-based foreign carriers may also apply if they meet the requirements.

Compliance and Application Details

Only operators with more than five annual visits to Israel will be considered, and charter operators are ineligible. All flight crew members must attend training and interviews, and contract pilots will not be accepted. Crew and passengers will undergo ASOC’s standard background checks, although specific details of this process remain undisclosed.

Understanding Israel Permits

Israel’s permit process focuses more on the individuals on board and their visit’s purpose rather than the flight schedule. ASOC conducts comprehensive security and background checks on the aircraft, crew, and passengers, assessing the visit’s purpose and potential threats before issuing permits. Air traffic considerations are secondary.

All approved departure airports have agreements with local authorities or private security companies for thorough security inspections. The landing permit application must include copies of crew and passenger passports, crew employment histories, and a local sponsor’s ID or passport. Once background checks are complete, the pilot in command will receive access credentials to obtain the final clearance code from the Ministry of Transportation’s website.

List of Authorized Gateway Airports

Here is the latest list of authorized gateway airports and the memorandum revoking U.S. airport gateway status. Some airports require special approval due to Israeli intelligence concerns, indicated by a double asterisk (**). Given the current security situation, Israel is not expected to offer leniency in these matters.

Understanding and complying with these new regulations is crucial for smooth and secure travel for those operating GA flights from the U.S. to Israel.

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