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Airports

Healthy state: Israel rides a traffic boom

25 March 2019
Ben Gurion handled record passenger traffic in 2018 (pictured is the inside of Terminal 3). Source: Getty Images

Expansion and development programmes reflect a strong and confident airport sector

The Israeli air transport sector is riding high, with record traffic at main gateway Ben Gurion International Airport accompanied by the opening of the first greenfield airport in the country in January.

The government-owned Israel Airports Authority (IAA), which runs Ben Gurion, faces the challenge of keeping pace with soaring demand. With the opening of the main Terminal 3 (T3) in 2004, the airport was capable of handling up to 12 million passengers per year, but since then traffic has consistently risen each year (bar 2009) with increases of 15.82% in 2017 and 10.75% in 2018, when it reached a record 22.95 million.

International traffic accounted for the vast majority of traffic, with 22.36 million passengers on 151,318 flights in 2018. An IAA spokesperson explained to Jane’s that one important factor behind the Ben Gurion boom is the Open Skies agreement between Israel and the European Union (EU), which was signed in 2013. EU-based carriers Wizz Air and EasyJet were among the airlines contributing strong growth to Tel Aviv in 2018. Israeli airlines carried 6.98 million passengers in 2018, or 31.22% of all traffic at Ben Gurion.

The IAA forecasts that international traffic at Ben Gurion will grow by 10% in 2019, driving overall growth to about 25 million passengers. If this happens, Ben Gurion will move into the top rank of airports as categorised by ACI Europe. In February alone, passenger volume increased by 23% on a year-by-year basis.

With T3 feeling the strain, new infrastructure is essential to cope with existing levels of demand and future-proof Ben Gurion. “We are in the midst of several ongoing projects,” the IAA official explained to Jane’s . “Terminal 1 [T1] has been doubled to adapt to the increase in traffic, [and we are] building a fourth concourse in Terminal 3.”

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