A NIS 150 million safety upgrade planned for Ben-Gurion Airport and other airports serving local flights will involve a hike in travel tax and on Israeli and foreign airlines. The fees they pay for parking planes will increase, for instance.

The investment is part of the Israel Airports Authority's (IAA) new development plan slated for the coming three years, between 2008 and 2010. Transportation Ministry director general Gideon Siterman gave his initial approval of the plan during a meeting with IAA board chairman Ovadia Eli, and his deputy, Shmuel Kendal, early this week in Jerusalem.

The rate hikes are to be decided by the IAA based on budgeting for the development plans. Sources in the Transportation Ministry and IAA say that the increase is justified because they have not been hiked for some time, and are low compared to those levied overseas. The travel tax of $13 per passenger at the Ben-Gurion Airport has not been updated since 1997.

The plan is to be completed within two weeks, to enable detailed discussions in October and presentation to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz by November, and approval for the 2008 budget.

"The issue of safety is the top priority of the IAA," the IAA stated. "The IAA's board of directors has approved a total of NIS 50 million for safety and security projects.

"Another NIS 43 million is in the process of approval. Plans for investment in safety measures will be updated upon receipt of the findings of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration team, appointed by Israel for this purpose. Budget limitations will not present a barrier to safety works," The IAA added