February 2017 set a record for the month at Ben Gurion Airport. Over a million travelers passed through the airport that month, more than in any previous February. Activity by Israeli airlines was up 5 percent over the previous February, while overall travel was up 12 percent among all airlines. The figures were considered exceptional, as February is generally the weakest tourism month of the year for both incoming and outgoing passengers. The figures were released by the Airports Authority.
The one airline that experienced a reduction in the number of flights was El Al, which flew 3 percent fewer flights this February than last. With that, El Al is still the largest carrier at Ben Gurion, accounting for 35 percent of all flights. Although there were fewer El Al flights, the airline managed to increase its passenger load for the month over the previous February by 1,330.
The largest engine for growth among Israeli airlines was Israir, which nearly doubled its passenger load to 21,791 in February 2017, compared to 11,730 a year earlier. Arkia, another Israeli airline, increased its passenger load as well, but by a more modest number, flying 11,730 passengers this February compared to 9,000 a year earlier. Transport Minister Yisrael Katz on Sunday authorized Arkia to fly a direct route between Tel Aviv and Belgrade.
Until now, Israir has been the only Israeli airline to fly regular flights between Israel and Serbia, although a recently-signed tourism agreement between the two countries authorizes both sides to allow as many airlines as they wish to fly into each other’s countries. El Al has a permit to fly to Belgrade but has not activated its right, but with the entry of Arkia into the market it is expected that more Israeli tour operators will sell vacations to Serbia; and interest in flights to the country will increase, Authority officials said.