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Korean Air informed the Ministry of Transportation and the Foreign Ministry yesterday that it would not begin operating direct flights to Israel on September 25 as planned, because it has not been allocated suitable office space at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Korean Air's vice president decided to delay the start of the flights after a 24-hour visit to Israel, during which he inspected the company's facilities.

"The Israel Airport Authority told us that they haven't got office space to offer us at Ben-Gurion airport, and that they can give us a small, poorly located substitute space, among the car-rental offices," said Simi Zeiderman, the representative for Korean Air in Israel. "The South Korean senior official rejected the 12 square meter area that is rented out for $1,300 per square meter."

Company officials said that the Korean Air offices at the airport are important because they function as a gateway for its customers in the country.

The Israel Airport Authority said in response that Korean Air's request of between 50 to 70 square meters of office space was only received in July.

"At the moment there's only one office, of 12 square meters, available at the airport and it was offered to them, but they rejected it," a spokesman said.

The IAA claimed that it has organized four tours with representatives of Korean Air to see available offices, and said attempts were even made to make more space available to the Asian company by reallocating places previously promised to other airliners.

"The IAA is making the issue a high priority," a spokesman said. "And it is not at all clear why Korean Air is complaining even before it carried out a single flight to Ben-Gurion International Airport."