TEL AVIV (Feb. 20)
An Egyptian passenger plane of the Egypt Air airline spent a night last week with its 102 passengers at Ben Gurion Airport, on its flight from the Persian Gulf state of Abu Dhabi (one of the seven United Arab Emirates), to Cairo. The airbus asked permission to land in Israel when a heavy sandstorm closed down Cairo Airport. The Egyptian pilot told reporters he had needed to refuel and preferred the arrangements at Ben Gurion Airport over those at the Cypriot airport at Larnaca, which was crowded at the time and was also experiencing unfavorable weather. Ben Gurion Airport was wet with high winds, but perfectly usable.
Most of the passengers, including Americans, Egyptians and other Arab nationals whose countries have no relations with Israel, spent the night in the airport lounge, but some 40 of them preferred to remain aboard, apparently not wanting to tread on Israeli soil. Those who entered the terminal building spent the time in the restaurants and duty-free shops, making purchases. The crew and passengers expressed appreciation at their treatment while in Israel.
It was the first time that a plane of Egypt Air, which operates Egyptian international flights, had landed in Israel. The regular service between Ben Gurion and Cairo airports is operated by a separate company, Air Sinai, which otherwise operates Egypt’s internal air services.
The Egyptian government made these arrangements to avoid problems with its Egypt Air aircraft calling at Arab airports after landing in Israel.