A PLANE at Ben-Gurion International Airport..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After visiting family in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, Becki Levant may get stuck this weekend.
“I’m flying out Sunday morning from London to Tel Aviv so I might be catching the tail-end of the strike,” said Levant, 30, who resides in the northern city of Haifa. “With the amount I fly, I’ve been pretty lucky with not having strikes at airports. I’ll maybe visit London if it’s a pretty big delay.”
Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv will undergo a partial strike at 5 p.m. local time this Friday, December 1, remaining mostly shuttered until 6 p.m on Saturday, December 2. Trans-Atlantic flights will be permitted to take-off and land, while most European connections will be grounded, according to the workers' committee on Wednesday evening.
An estimated 25,500 passengers flying on 160 flights will be forced to make alternate travel plans. On Saturday night, flights will resume from 9 p.m. onward. A skeleton staff will remain on-site to handle any emergency requests for landing.
Employees are striking to protest a decision by the Interior Ministry to allow local municipalities to charge the airport property taxes.
Given that Ben-Gurion is Israel’s main gateway to the world – as Israel’s land borders with Jordan and Egypt are fraught with tension – any unexpected closures reverberate throughout the economy. (There are no civilian border crossings from Israel to Lebanon and Syria.) More than 90% of all incoming and outgoing passengers transit through the airport.
Tourist operators may be affected, along with business travel. Losses could tally in the millions of shekels, especially if the strike is intermittent and reoccurs soon afterwards.
Workers are striking out of fear that airport property taxes could lead to wage cuts or layoffs. According to The Marker, the average airport employee earns NIS 26,100 ($7,450) monthly – two-and-a-half times the average national wage. It’s unclear if reduced Israeli Airports Authority revenue would necessitate cost-cutting.
Ben-Gurion operates 364 days a year, barring the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
The airport has previously been shuttered for short strikes. Operations were also affected when the American Federal Aviation Administration suspended flights during the 2014 Gaza war, triggering a two-day de facto international flight ban.
In 2016, 17.5 million passengers passed through the airport, an 11% increase from the previous year.