Dozens of Flights Delayed by Ben-Gurion Labor Slowdown

Airport workers protest at what they say is a manpower shortage.

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Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Ben-Gurion International Airport.Credit: AP

Scores of flights departed from Ben-Gurion International Airport’s Terminal 3 behind schedule on Thursday as Israel Airport Authority workers launched a slowdown to protest what they said was a shortage of manpower.

The labor action began early in the morning, with delayed departures for the low-cost airlines that operate out of Ben-Gurion’s Terminal 1. But the slowdown gradually spread to the airport’s main facility, Terminal 3. The airports authority said domestic flights weren’t affected.

It was the second time in the past month that airport authorities employees staged a labor slowdown even though management has promised to hire more staff.

“We arrived three hours before takeoff time and were forced to wait another three hours beyond that, together with hundreds of other families and children,” one traveler told TheMarker, who had booked flights for himself and his family with EasyJet for Berlin. “There were hundreds of disgruntled people all around me.”

Thursdays are usually a day of heavy traffic at the airport, but the sanctions this Thursday came at a particularly busy time as July 1 marks the start of the summer vacation seasons both for Israelis travelling abroad and foreign tourists coming to Israel.

Moreover, 2014 has been shaping up to be a record year for overseas travel, with 6.7 million people taking international flights into and out of Israel in the first half of the year, an 18.5% increase over the same time in 2013.

“Management has promised to hire more staff, but that’s not enough,” said Pinhas Idan, chairman of the Israel Airports Authority workers committee. “I’m not going to tolerate being forced to work a shift and a half. I won’t allow a situation like last summer to happen again.”

Asked why the union chose the beginning of July to stage their slowdown, Idan said, “We’re talking about the first day of the peak seasons, so the shortage of workers is going to be felt more acutely.”

Officially both the workers committee and the Histadrut labor federation denied there had been an officially sanctioned slowdown, blaming the heavy passenger traffic for the delays. The labor federation said it had not been informed about plans for a slowdown by the workers committee.

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