Is This the Worst Tourist Trap at Israel’s Airport?

Next time you fly out of Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport you may want to make sure you don’t need to change money

Rotem Shtarkman
Rotem Shtarkman
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The Duty Free area at Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel's main airport, near Tel Aviv.
The Duty Free area at Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel's main airport, near Tel Aviv.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Rotem Shtarkman
Rotem Shtarkman

It’s hard not to get upset by the shameful prices for food and drink at Ben-Gurion Airport. A meal there on the way to a vacation abroad remains a tourist trap, even for savvy Israelis – and in recent years the problem has only worsened because most flights don’t offer food.

But it turns out there’s a trap at the airport costing travelers a great deal more. On currency exchanges over $100, the Bank Hapoalim branch there charges a commission 10 times higher than at its branches elsewhere in Israel – 2 percent instead of 0.2 percent.

After three years of hearings, the Lod District Court last week certified a complaint about this practice as a class action suit, allowing the case to proceed.

The Bank Hapoalim change at the airport.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Two decades ago, Hapoalim won the bidding to provide currency exchange services at Ben-Gurion; it has operated a small branch there 24 hours a day.

The Bank of Israel, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be overly concerned. Despite its chart stipulating maximum commissions, the central bank sent a letter to Hapoalim approving what appears to be a skirting of the rules.

A class-action complaint may only demand compensation for improper conduct during the seven years before the filing. The plaintiffs claim that in those seven years around 10 billion shekels ($2.9 billion) was exchanged at the branch.

With the complaint now certified, documents are expected to be filed showing just how much Bank Hapoalim made at the expense of travelers flying abroad.

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