The Israel Airports Authority estimates that passenger traffic at Ben-Gurion International Airport during the upcoming Passover holiday will be 17 percent higher than the same period last year.

According to IAA estimates obtained by Haaretz, 554,000 passengers are expected to travel through the airport on 3,426 flights between March 25 and April 8. The increase can be explained by the slump in travelers last year due to Operation Cast Lead and the world financial crisis.

According to El Al sources, the most popular European destinations for Israelis during the coming weeks are Berlin, Munich, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan, Barcelona and Moscow. Across the Atlantic, New York retains its traditional lead; in the Far East the most popular destinations are Bangkok and Hong Kong.

El Al's competitor Arkia said the most popular destinations for its passengers this spring are Greece and Spain. Last year's 40-percent drop in Israelis traveling to Turkey - caused by the political tensions between the two countries in the wake of Operation Cast Lead - has also ended: Arkia says passenger traffic between the two has risen by 51.8 percent since the beginning of the year.

The busiest day of the upcoming season at Ben-Gurion airport will be Thursday, April 8, when about 48,500 passengers are expected to depart or land on 305 flights.

IAA director-general Kobi Mor said his organization was making all necessary preparations to "respond to the great demands of passenger and airplane traffic, and to provide optimal service at the airport."

Despite the apparent recovery in the aviation sector, El Al will not offer any more flights this Pesach than it did last year. Six extra flights were scheduled for the U.S., and three for each of the following cities - Rome, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin - but the company will use larger aircraft instead of adding planes.