Pilot refuses to fly over Israel citing security concerns

United Airlines flight UA84 was delayed by 24 hours after the pilot refused to fly into Tel Aviv. Reports state that the pilot was concerned about the ‘security situation’, presumably following a week of escalated tension in the region.

United Airlines aircraft
| © AP/Jeff Chiu

A strange series of events

Passengers were left confused and frustrated as they received conflicting reasons for the delay throughout the 24 hours. The airline staff had first explained that the flight had to be cancelled due to ‘crew refusal’, only to later alter that reason by stating the pilot did not want to fly into Israel. According to news agency Channel 5, one passenger named Michal remarked,

“Airline staff on the plane told us that ground crew knew there was no pilot, and nonetheless they conducted boarding procedures and we couldn’t understand why,” she said…When we got off the plane and were back in the waiting area they said that the pilot refused to fly to Israel because of the security situation.”

Another passenger, who goes by Gil Eyal on Twitter, stated that there was a sense of unease even before boarding the flight. Upon hearing the reason for the cancellation, he took to Twitter to personally ask United for an explanation. In response, United cited a ‘flight curfew’ over commercial airlines. Time Of Israel confirms that no curfew existed at the time.

Map of Palestine/ Israel depopulations
Map of Palestine/ Israel depopulations ©Basil Leaf

Cause for concern?

The conflict between Palestine and Israel intensified during the week as Israeli airstrikes in Gaza culminated in 44 casualties. Dozens of rocket fires were launched into southern and central parts of Israel, and some sources have warned that the situation ‘remains unpredictable.’

As a result, the flight paths to Ben Gurion Airport have been changed to enable commercial airlines to fly safely into the region, and there have been no reports so far of flights being affected.

What do you think of the pilot’s concerns? Let us know in the comments how you feel about this puzzling issue.

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Chiyedza Zunzanyika
Chiyedza Zunzanyika
Chiyedza is a final year Law student at the University of Bristol with a passion for writing and research. She centres her articles at TravelRadar on the development of aviation in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.



  1. Without knowing all the details, ultimately it is the pilot’s responsibility to ensure the flight is safe. At the time, Israel was a war zone. I support the pilot’s decision. Safety is primary to the 24 hour inconvenience to the passengers.


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