Hundreds of Israeli Summer Flights at Risk

YERUSHALAYIM -
An El Al plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Hundreds of Israeli airline flights are at risk of cancellation next summer as a result of work actions of the foreign ministry and security procedures, Globes reported on Tuesday.

El Al, Arkia and Israir have already received notice from the foreign ministry that they will not be able to process all the necessary permits for summer operations and should adjust their schedules accordingly, the report said.

Although an agreement between the government and foreign ministry workers was signed earlier in the week, work stoppages that were held in recent months will still have their impact.

According to an industry source, over a thousand flights may be affected, resulting in a major financial blow to the airlines and harming passengers, who will have to reorganize travel plans and who will not be benefit from full competition.

Meanwhile, Ben Gurion Airport is about to get an upgrade.

Currently listed as a medium-sized airport, and classed as a small airport only five years ago, Ben Gurion is on the verge of reclassification to “large.”

This category consists of airports with passenger traffic in excess of 25 million. The change in Ben Gurion Airport’s category will take effect in 2019 when the number of passengers surpasses 25 million, Globes said.

The increase in the number of passengers is attributed to more airlines operating routes from Israel. This number is now 140, 12 of which began flying to Ben Gurion only in the past year. Airlines are also flying to Ben Gurion from dozens of new locations. For example, 15 airlines are flying from Ben Gurion to destinations in Italy and Greece, 12 airlines to Germany, 10 to France, and so on.

The increased availability of flights, along with lower oil prices, have driven ticket prices down. The low shekel-dollar and shekel-euro exchange rates are not only lowering the shekel prices of flights, but also cutting the cost of overseas overnight stays.

The state, which takes dividends from the Airports Authority’s profit, may seek to raise fees. Airlines currently pay $26 per ticket in Terminal 3 and $11 per ticket in Terminal 1.

The level of fees is determined by demand for the airport. It varies from $40 to $70 in large airports, and reaches as much as $100 in airports with strong demand, such as Heathrow Airport in London, which is rated by the airlines as one of the world’s most desirable airports.

For the Airports Authority, more traffic means more investment in the airport. These costs, which are estimated at $5 billion, include added check-in counters, independent positions, exit platforms for airliners, etc.