The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) warned of delays in flights over the holiday of Passover, as tens of thousands of passengers are expected to pass through the Ben-Gurion Airport on a daily basis.
About 73,000 Israelis are expected to go through the airport on Thursday alone, as the waning fifth wave of the pandemic and the Jewish holiday offers many Israelis the chance to travel for the first time in nearly two years. The traveler load expected at Ben Gurion on Thursday will be the highest in two years, since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Pinchas Idan, who serves as chairman of the Israel Airport Authority workers committee, said the long lines and delays at the airport were exacerbated by a lack of staff.
“It’s a madhouse, there are insane lines. Security-wise, we’ve managed to handle the situation, the problem is the reception desks. There aren’t enough stewards — we’re unable to recruit people,” he said in an interview with Army Radio Thursday morning.
Shmuel Zakai, director of Ben Gurion Airport, said two weeks ago in an interview with 103FM Radio that the airport was “missing hundreds of employees” and said lines would only get longer during the upcoming holiday.
“If before COVID a passenger would spend an average of two minutes standing in line, today it’s eight and a half minutes… Terminal 3 is missing three registry desks,” Zakai said, noting that “Israel is one of only four countries in the world that require every arriving passenger to take a PCR test.”
ככה הנראה הבוקר הכי עמוס בנתב"ג מזה שנתיים. 70 אלף נוסעים צפויים לעבור היום בשדה התעופה, ועד עובדי רשות שדות התעופה:"מעריכים שיהיו עיכובים מבקשים מהנוסעים להתאזר בסבלנות"
מדווח מנתב"ג לאולפן Ynet @RubinsteinRoy pic.twitter.com/iTc9F8C7XW
— Daniel Salami (@DanielSal_87) April 14, 2022
He said “some problems in life require a complicated solution,” noting, “it’s not that we’re careless.”
Zakai suggested people check in online before arriving at the airport, which he said would shorten the time spent standing in line.
Ben Gurion Airport is not the only place expected to deal with crowds of Israelis looking to go on vacation, with some preferring an option much closer to home.
Ahead of Passover, the Sinai peninsula has been gearing up to host what could be the largest number of Israeli visitors to the peninsula since the Red Sea split.
The expected large uptick in visitors is thanks in part to a new direct flight from Tel Aviv to Sharm el Sheikh on Arkia, Israel’s discount airline, expected to launch during the holiday.
This is also the first Passover season since Israel’s National Security Council scaled back its travel warning for parts of the Sinai Peninsula for the first time in more than a decade. And after two years of pandemic isolations and cancellations, many Israelis are itching to get out of the country.
Projections suggest that travel and tourism should deliver NIS 10.25 billion ($3.2 billion) to the Israeli economy in 2022. The forecasts are for annual growth of just under 11% a year until 2026. Israeli hotels are expected to earn NIS 5.4 billion ($1.7 billion) in 2022.