Delta waiting on return of Tel Aviv flights: CEO

Delta CEO on flight ban

Delta Air Lines decided to halt flights to Tel Aviv before U.S. regulators ordered a ban, CEO Richard Anderson told CNBC on Wednesday.

"We make those decisions ... wholly independent of any geopolitical or regulatory mandate," Anderson said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "We made that call ... yesterday morning early, well before the FAA made any pronouncements."

United Airlines and US Airways also canceled their flights to Israel before the Federal Aviation Administration announcement.

German airline Lufthansa said Wednesday it is extending a suspension of flights to Israel for another 24 hours, saying there was not enough new information to justify resuming flights without danger of rocket fire from Gaza.

Despite the FAA ban, Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Tel Aviv on Wednesday for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as talks continue to try to reach a cease-fire in the 2-week-old Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.

Kerry's visit came a day after former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to fly into Tel Aviv on Israeli air carrier El Al to "show solidarity" with the Israeli people. In a statement, he added that the FAA flight restrictions are a mistake that "hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately."

The ban was imposed hours after a Hamas rocket landed near Israel's Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv. The FAA said it would review its ban by midday EDT Wednesday.

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Anderson indicated Delta was not rushing to resume its Tel Aviv flights, even as opposition to the FAA's order mounted. "We plan these things conservatively but we're going to need concrete information from our government that lets us draw an independent conclusion and keeping with our much higher duty of care that it's going to be safe for our passengers and our employees."

"We routinely establish what we call Delta no-fly zones," he continued. "So today, for instance, we're not flying to Israel. We will not allow a flight to be dispatched to over Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan and North Korea."

Also Wednesday, Ukraine said two of its military fighter jets had been shot down near where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was downed in the rebel-held eastern part of Ukraine.

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—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.