Airlines Seeking to Stall Israeli Airport Decision to Reduce Operating Hours

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz was expected to decide on night flights issue today.

The trade association representing the world’s airlines has asked Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority to reconsider a proposal to reduce Ben-Gurion International Airport’s operating hours. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz was expected to decide on the matter Sunday.

The CAA is proposing that landings at the airport begin later than they currently do and end earlier at night, in an effort to reduce noise for residents in the flight paths of approaching aircraft. The proposed reduced hours of operation would go into effect this March, after the upgrading of runways – which is currently underway – is completed.

Although Katz had been expected to make a decision Sunday, TheMarker has learned that the International Air Transport Association’s Israel director, Kobi Zussman, asked that no decision be taken without involving the airlines serving Israel first.

In an urgent letter to CAA director general Giora Romm, Zussman stated that curtailing the airport’s hours of operation could have major implications for the airlines at Ben-Gurion airport, and IATA was asking that the airlines be given a chance to review the CAA recommendations and to respond before a decision is considered by Katz.

The Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association and the Israel Hotel Association have also objected to the reduction of hours. The heads of the two organizations – Shmuel Zuriel of the tour operators’ group and Ami Etgar on behalf of the hoteliers – wrote their own joint letter to Romm, in which they said a reduction in the hours of operation would have an effect on the numbers of foreign tourists coming here.

“The hours of operation at Ben-Gurion airport have implications on the strength and profitability of Israel’s airlines, and affect the feasibility and profitability of foreign airlines on their flights to Israel,” as well as the takeoff slots available at the airport, the two wrote. They asked for the opportunity to present their position at any meeting at which the policy is considered, and said the issue would also have negative implications for tour guides, bus companies, restaurants, tourist sites and other businesses that rely on foreign tourism.

The Transportation Ministry has not yet issued a response on the matter.

Zwicky Abramovich