Ben-Gurion Airport Opens Terminal 1 to Cheap Flights Abroad

Israel implements phase of Open Skies agreement with EU to increase competition and lower prices on flights to Europe.

Ben-Gurion International Airport inaugurated a new passengers hall for low-cost overseas flights in the older Terminal 1 on Sunday, a step expected to help lower the cost of flights between Israel and Europe.

The first flight to land at the terminal was by the British airline easyJet on Monday.

An expected 55 low-cost overseas flights are expected to depart from Ben-Gurion every week this winter, compared to 33 during last winter, according to the Israel Airports Authority. This is an increase of more than 66%.

Besides easyJet, Norwegian Air and Wizz air are expected to operate flights out of the new hall.

"This is a revolution that enables Israel's middle class to fly abroad," said Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who inaugurated the new passengers hall. Increasing the number of low-cost flights to and from Israel is a practical step toward addressing issues of social justice and cost of living, said Katz.

The new low-cost flight area is located in the western hall of Terminal 1, which served international flights to and from Israel for decades until Terminal 3 opened in 2004. The Open Skies agreement, which Israel and the European Union signed in June, called for letting foreign low-cost airlines use Terminal 1.

The European Commission estimated that once fully implemented, Open Skies would save travelers 350 million euros a year thanks to increased competition. Flights scheduled to depart from the new hall next month include European destinations like Rome and Budapest for less than 100 euros for flights in each direction.

The EU is Israel's biggest aviation market, accounting for 57% international air passenger traffic. In 2011, EU-Israel traffic accounted for 7.2 million passengers, an increase of 6.8% from 2010. More than 260,000 passengers are expected to pass through Ben-Gurion's Terminal 1 by the end of this year, compared to 185,000 passengers in 2012, an increase of 50%.

Nir Keidar