Israel will be cut off from major international air travel once a week for ten months starting this Friday, due to a new no-fly protocol on Friday evenings at Ben Gurion Airport.

The new protocol, intended to allow for repairs to runways, will come into effect on Friday January 7, Haaretz learned on Thursday.

Under the new rules, no planes will be allowed to take off or land on any of the airport's runways between the hours of 6 P.M. and 11 P.M., until the end of October 2011. Generally, Ben Gurion Airport only shuts down service on one day of the year, the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur.

All of the airport's runways are currently undergoing repairs, which leaves only one main runway for all aircraft landings and take-offs. The protocol prohibiting any use of the main runway on Friday evenings will allow maintenance workers to perform weekly repairs to the strip, so that it continue to perform at optimum levels, until the other runways return to use.

Israeli charter flight companies, such as Sun Dor, leveled criticism at the airport officials for the decision, which they say will harm them disproportionately, since they generally operate many of their flights on Friday evenings.

The charter flight companies say that cannot understand why the necessary weekly repairs are not conducted between the hours of 1:40 A.M. and 5:30 P.M., during which hours no flights are allowed in any case, due to noise restrictions.