The largest airline in Cyprus has been barred from flying through Lebanese airspace because an Israeli company owns nearly half of the carrier’s stock, according to Lebanon’s Civil Aviation Authority which issued the ban on Friday.
TUS Airways was formed in 2015, shortly after the liquidation of Cyprus Airways and despite only owning five Airbus A320 aircraft, the carrier is officially the largest airline in Cyprus.
Although the airline is based out of its Larnaca hub, TUS Airways has a strong focus on flights to and from Israel.
In a statement published by Lebanon’s National News Agency, the director general of the aviation authority, Fadi al-Hassan, said the airspace ban was being issued because the Israeli company Knafaim Holdings now owns 49.9% of TUS Airways.
Lebanon considers Israel an ‘enemy state’, and the country has enforced an economic boycott on its neighbour since 1955.
“We have decided to prevent the Cypriot company TUS Air from flying in Lebanese airspace and from landing at Rafic Hariri International Airport, Beirut, until further notice,” al-Hassan said on Friday.
Lebanon only became aware that TUS Airways had a major Israeli backer after the Cypriot Civil Aviation Authority informed its Lebanese counterpart that the airline had been nominated to provide air services between the two countries under a 2017 bilateral agreement.
Al-Hassan said that his department carried out some routine research on the internet and discovered that TUS Air was partly owned by an Israel-based company which put it in conflict with the Boycott Israel Law.
Last year, TUS Airways made history when it operated the very first commercial flight between Israel and Qatar to carry football fans to the FIFA World Cup in Doha.