Airports Auth. Looking to Raise Fees, Charge for Free Services

The Israel Airports Authority is considering charging fees for a long list of services at Ben-Gurion International Airport that it currently provides at no charge, including porter service and the use of luggage carts.

The IAA is looking for ways to to deal with its own financial troubles, which are expected to become much worse with the anticipated drop in passenger and aircraft traffic at the airport as a result of the global economic crisis.

Free wireless Internet access is also thought to be on the chopping block.

The IAA already attempted to do away with the fast-track security check line for business and first-class passengers. The outcry from the airlines, as well as VIPs, led the IAA to immediately backtrack on its plan, although it said this was only a temporary delay in order to give the airlines time to prepare for the cancellation of the special lines.

The IAA has, however, reduced the number of security personnel staffing the express lines.

The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee will convene on Tuesday to discuss the IAA's request to raise the fees it levies on passengers, as well as fees it charges the airlines for various services provided at the airport.

The airlines object to the fee increases. Opposition to the price hikes has come from the International Air Transport Association, which represents 230 airlines world-wide, as well as the forum of foreign airlines operating form Israel, the pilots association and all of the Israeli airlines: El Al, Arkia and Israir.

"The IAA is still paying off loans of about $200 million, which it took out to complete the new terminal at Ben-Gurion Airport," Ovadia Eli, the chairman of the IAA's board, said in explaining the authority's reasons for increasing fees.

"In addition, we need to deal with increased security expenses, as a result of stricter deamnds by the security services, and the transfer of the responsibility for security for internal flights from the airlines to us," Eli said.