Pesach is almost here – and with it the tourist crunch at Ben Gurion Airport, as traffic in both directions – in and out of the country – shoots up. According to airport officials, some 1.5 million passengers will pass through the airport in the weeks leading up to Pesach and in the days following the end of the holiday. That figure would constitute a 16 percent rise in the number of Pesach-related travelers over 2016 levels.
The officials base their estimates on the simple fact that even in “off” months, travel has grown significantly. In February, 1,033,898 passengers passed through Ben Gurion – a 12 percent increase over the previous year, and the first time ever that the February figure for travel exceeded a million travelers. As of March 1st, a total of 2.161 million travelers have entered and exited Israel via Ben Gurion, the numbers show.
In February, El Al was the biggest carrier, with a total of 327,545 travelers. Among foreign carriers, low-cost airline Easyjet, which only recently entered the Israeli market, was second, with 58,827 passengers, while the third-largest carrier was Turkish Airlines, with 56,575 travelers, the vast majority of whom transferred in Istanbul for flights to the U.S., Europe or Asia. Fourth-largest was Russian carrier Aeroflot, with 52,000 passengers – a 40 percent increase over its February 2016 level.
The number-one destination for Israeli tourists in February was the United States, from where 10 percent of travelers departed and/or arrived to. Second in popularity was Germany, followed by France and Russia.