2016 record year for Israeli air traffic

IAA statistics show more Israelis travel abroad, but fewer tourists are coming.

January 1, 2017 20:58
3 minute read.
an EL AL Boeing 777 aircraft at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv,

An EL AL Boeing 777 aircraft at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv,. (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

Statistics released on Sunday by the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) reveal that 2016 was another record breaking year for international air traffic and travel from Ben-Gurion Airport.

According to the statistics, more than 17 million travelers passed through Ben Gurion over the year for more than 110,000 incoming and outgoing international flights. More than 600,000 flew through the airport on domestic flights.

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This 11% increase in travelers compared to last year amounts to more than 1.6 million new individuals to pass through Ben Gurion.

“The phenomenal increase in traffic through Ben Gurion now necessitates us to make further investments and improvements to our infrastructure. By the summer of 2017 we will open Terminal 1 to full activity in order to facilitate this trend,” said Ben Gurion’s director-general Shmuel Zakai on Sunday.

The IAA press release which accompanied the data credits this expansion in Ben Gurion’s international activity to Transportation Minister Israel Katz’s Open Skies Policy.

“I am proud of my contribution to one of the biggest consumer revolutions in Israel in the last few years. These end of the year data prove that the Open Skies reforms which I lead, have brought a decrease in the prices of travel abroad; This allows more and more Israelis from all social strata to fly abroad with attractive prices,” Katz said on Sunday.

Katz signed the Open Skies agreement with the European Union members in 2012, in order to attract more airlines to Israel and increase competition in the field of air travel. It has gradually started going into effect since 2013, canceling previous limitations on the amount of carriers allowed to operate in Israel, flight frequencies, and limitations on specific airplanes which were previously not allowed to operate through Israel in order to protect local carriers.

Today, Ben Gurion airport services more than 100 carriers that fly to 135 destinations around the world.

According to the IAA statistics, the increase in traffic from Ben Gurion stems from the increase in Israeli travelers which account for more than 70% of all individuals passing through the airport this year.

Foreign nationals however, assumed to be tourists by the IAA statistics, account for about 30% of all travelers going through the airport. IAA’s data does not make a distinction between foreign nationals entering Israel and those who only come through Ben Gurion on a connection flight.

Either way, according to Zakai, this number is a five-year record low in foreign nationals’ traffic through the airport.

According to the data, the number one country in terms of traffic during 2016 was Turkey with nearly 10% of all incoming and outgoing traffic. However, most of the travelers arrive in Turkey in order catch a cheaper connection flight to a different final destination. The second busiest country is the United States with 1.45 million travelers coming and going. Following the US, the IAA recorded 1.5 million coming and going to Italy, 1.2 million to and from Germany, and France and Russia with one million travelers each.

The previous year has also been a record year for low-cost airlines in Ben Gurion, with 12% of all air traffic carried out by low-cost carriers. If one chooses to add Israeli operators of low-cost flights such as Up, Arkia and Israir to the calculation then the number rises to almost 20%.

The number one low-cost airline is EasyJet, which is now the third most used airline with 719,000 passengers, right behind Turkish Airlines with 932,000 and El Al with 5.5 million.

Another upwards trend that the IAA pointed to is the increase in automated check-ins by passengers. This year, 36% of all Ben Gurion outgoing travelers completed their check-in on-line before arrival to the airport and 9% completed their check-in at Ben Gurion but using the computerized check-in stations spread around the terminals. Out of the travelers using low-cost carriers, 90% made an automated check-in online.

“Ben Gurion has gone through a revolution in regards to the self-reliant and independent check-in process. We will continue to encourage passengers to complete the check-in themselves and save time in lines and long security checks,” said Zakai.

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