How the Middle East Conflict Affects Air Cargo and Logistics Operations
The Middle East is a region of strategic importance for air cargo and logistics operations, but it is also a region of instability and conflict. The recent escalation of violence between Israel and its country neighbors as Palestine has raised serious concerns for the safety of civil aviation in the area. In this article, we will explain how the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has responded to the situation and what air operators should do to ensure their operations are not disrupted.
What is the EASA Critical Zone of Interest Bulletin?
The EASA Critical Zone of Interest Bulletin (CZIB) is a document that provides guidance and recommendations to air operators who intend to conduct operations in airspace affected by armed conflict or other hazards. The CZIB is not legally binding, but it reflects EASA’s assessment of the risk level and the best practices to mitigate it.
On 8th October 2023, EASA issued a CZIB for the Tel Aviv Flight Information Region (FIR), which covers most of Israel’s airspace. The CZIB was issued in response to the increasing tensions between Israel and neighboring territories, such as Gaza and Lebanon, where Palestinian armed groups and Hezbollah have launched rockets and drones towards Israeli territory. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have retaliated with airstrikes and artillery fire, creating a volatile situation that poses a threat to civil aviation.
The CZIB applies to operators subject to the provisions of Commission Regulation (EU) 965/2012, which regulates air operations in the European Union. It also applies to third Country Operators authorized by EASA when conducting operations under their TCO authorization to, from, and within the European Union.
The CZIB is valid until 31st October 2023, but it may be reviewed earlier if deemed necessary.
What are the current measures in place to ensure the safety of civil aviation in Israel?
The Israeli Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) is responsible for ensuring the safety of civil aviation in Israel. The ICAA has taken action to protect its airspace and major airports from the threat of rockets and drones by issuing and maintaining Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs). These NOTAMs provide information on the status of airspace, airport closures, flight restrictions, and other relevant information for air operators.
According to EASA, the current measures in place by the ICAA are efficient and adequate, and there are no indications that they are insufficient. However, EASA advises air operators to closely monitor the situation and follow any updates or instructions from the ICAA.
The ICAA has also informed that Eilat-Ramon International Airport (LLER-ETM), located in southern Israel near the border with Jordan, remains available as a preferable alternate airport and as a possible destination within Israel. This airport is outside the present conflict zone and has not been affected by the recent hostilities.
What should air operators do to ensure the safety of their operations in the region?
EASA recommends that air operators who intend to conduct operations in or near the Tel Aviv FIR follow these steps:
• Closely monitor airspace developments in the region and remain vigilant.
• Follow aeronautical publications issued by Israeli State authorities, such as NOTAMs, Aeronautical Information Publications (AIPs), Aeronautical Information Circulars (AICs), etc.
• Follow guidance or direction from their national aviation authorities, who may have additional information or requirements for their operators.
• Share information through the European Information Sharing and Cooperation Platform on Conflict Zones, which is a tool that allows air operators to exchange information on conflict zones and other hazards.
• Maintain robust risk assessments and contingency plans, prepared for short notice instructions from the Israeli authorities.
Air cargo and logistics operators in the region are urged to stay informed and adaptable in these uncertain times as regional tensions continue to affect airspace and operations. EASA will continue to assess the evolving threat in the region and provide updates as necessary.
Ongoing regional tensions have the potential to disrupt flight schedules, routes, expenses, security protocols, and the consistency of air cargo shipments to and from Israel. As these uncertain circumstances continue, we'll keep you informed about their implications on airspace and operations, and please, reach out if you have any questions.
UPDATE 08/NOV/2023 - CH AVIATION
Multiple airlines are canceling flights to Tel Aviv due to safety concerns arising from the Israel-Gaza conflict. Israeli airlines are maintaining their schedules, and the airspace is open. Regulators are issuing notices, with EASA not recommending the suspension of flights to Israel. Russia is restricting nighttime flights. Several airlines have canceled flights, while some continue to offer fare flexibility. Tel Aviv airport remains operational. The conflict between Israel and Hamas continues.