What to Expect at Ben-Gurion Airport: Part 2

Remember: Security personnel have time; you’ve got a plane to catch. Make it easy for yourself and leave the comedy routine behind.

In this second tip on airport protocol in Israel, we expand on the advice to stay patient, calm and courteous – and leave your comedy routine behind. Remember: Security personnel have time; you’ve got a plane to catch. Make it easy for yourself by making it easier for them.

Most international flights come and go from the Ben-Gurion International Airport, located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The airport has two relevant terminals, the older one – Terminal 1, and an enormous spanking-new one, Terminal 3, which serves almost all international flights. (Terminal 1 serves mainly international charters and domestic flights.)

In Terminal 3, the Departures Hall is divided into four distinct check-in areas, marked with huge letters: “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Look for your flight on the big electronic boards to see which area is handling it.

El Al is usually “C” and “D”; most other airlines are “A” and “B”; a few airlines (US Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian and Lot) are down on the ground floor (“G” on the elevator) due to space reasons.

You’ll be directed to the appropriate line, where you’ll eventually be quizzed by a security person. Have your passport ready at all times; a copy of your e-ticket is helpful as well.

Typical first questions are, “Did you pack your bag yourself?” and “Where was it after you packed it?” (standing for an hour in a hotel corridor, for instance, where someone could have tampered with it?) And especially: “Did anyone give you something to take with you?”

If no-one gave you an actual package, you are honestly likely to answer “No.”

But here’s an insider tip: If you were given a completely innocent brochure or souvenir at a conference, or a map and hat by your tour guide – tell them! Don’t let them find it on their own and then ask you why you didn’t mention it in the first place.

Next step is a large scanner for your check-through luggage. Wait for the bags on the other side of the machine. The checker on his/her monitor either clears a particular bag by putting a bar-coded paper strip on it, or sends you to another station a few steps away if there is some unidentifiable item or container that requires opening the bag. It’s on a bag-by-bag not passenger-by-passenger basis.

Once cleared, the procedure becomes more common-place. You march over to the airline counters and check in. You then cross a small commercial concourse to the bright “Departures” sign, go through personal security (no need to take off shoes), stand in line for passport control, and end up in the duty-free zone and the departure gates. Bon voyage.

Cleck here to read the first article in the series.

Dan Keinan