Safety measures adopted by flight controllers at Ben-Gurion International airport yesterday have caused delays to flights to and from Israel. Flight controllers maintain this is not part of a labor dispute, but a basic need to safeguard flights.

The stringent safety measures adopted yesterday caused delays of 20-40 minutes in the landing and take-off schedule of flights.

At a meeting yesterday morning, the union of airport staff and the representatives of the flight controllers met with the deputy director of Airports Authority, Shmuel Kandel, on the matter.

According to the flight controllers "this is not a labor dispute but genuine need to space out the flights in light of the safety shortcomings at Ben-Gurion airport."

They also vowed to do everything possible to "limit the disruptions and inconvenience" for passengers."

Staff meeting leads to change

The move to initiate longer spacing between flights stemmed from a late-night meeting Sunday between Pinchas Idan, chairman of the union of airport employees, and the flight controllers.

The controllers said in a statement that "in light of the poor safety conditions at Ben-Gurion Airport and until the necessary safety infrastructures are in place, the flight controllers will implement maximum spacing to ensure the safety of flights and passengers.

Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday between Kandel and the flight controllers to find a solution to the problem.

The controllers have formed a special working group to draft a document delineating the safety measures they feel are lacking, and address immediate and long-term solutions.

In recent months, Ben-Gurion's management and flight controllers face criticism on a series of safety issues, a matter that contributed to the dismissal of Airports Authority Director Gabi Ophir. There have been several near-accidents at the airport.

Two days ago an independent investigator charged that flight controllers whitewashed an incident involving two aircraft.