Long lines and delays as Israelis head to airport for Passover exodus

The Israel Airport Authority is having difficulty bringing back workers that were laid off, causing immense lines at check-in counters.

Passengers waited for hours in check-in queues on April 14, 2022. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Passengers waited for hours in check-in queues on April 14, 2022.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Some 71,400 passengers from 454 international flights traveled through Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday, leading to long lines and flight delays.

“Such madness I haven’t seen for a long time,” one passenger tweeted, adding that some of the flights were taking an extremely long time to process each passenger which exacerbated the problem.

Another passenger arrived at 3:10 a.m. for a 7 a.m. flight and stood in the check-in line for nearly two-and-a-half hours.

“I am in a madhouse, there is pressure and terrible lines” Pinchas Idan, CEO of the Israel Airport Authority Workers Union, said on Army Radio. “In terms of security we overcame this, but the problem is the check-in counters. There are not enough flight attendants – we haven’t been able to recruit people,” he said.

Due to a technical malfunction, 270 suitcases were not loaded onto airplanes, Einav Kerner of Army Radio reported. The suitcases will be sent later in the day.

 A clown performs at Ben Gurion Airport for passengers waiting in long queues on April 14, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) A clown performs at Ben Gurion Airport for passengers waiting in long queues on April 14, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Some 39,700 people were scheduled to depart the country on Thursday on 248 flights while some 31,700 travelers were scheduled to arrive on 206 flights, according to IAA data.

The most popular Passover destinations are Turkey, Greece, the US, France and Italy.

Long lines were also reported at the Taba land crossing into Sinai.

In January, the airport operated at 51% capacity, with 4,077 flights carrying 417,500 passengers.

February saw a rise to 73% with 698,923 passengers and in March the number rose to 80% capacity with 1,232,234 passengers.

April will see the number of passengers rise to nearly pre-COVID levels, with 10,600 flights expected to carry 1,700,000 passengers. In comparison, April 2019 saw about two million passengers, according to the IAA.

“Today is a holiday for Ben-Gurion Airport – we are returning to the beautiful days of 2019,” the authority said.

“For two years we have prayed for this day together with all of Am Yisrael to return to normalcy, and now it has arrived and everyone is complaining. [While] you see congestion, we see a sane country going on vacation,” the IAA said.

Responding to a query by The Jerusalem Post regarding the reports about a lack of staff, the authority said: “During the past two years the world of aviation, in all its components, [including] IAA workers, flight attendants [and] airlines suffered from a shutdown due to COVID-19. Just as it was shut down, it is [now] returning to activity.

“Unfortunately, workers that were on unpaid leave and were [eventually] fired did not return to work and even found new jobs. It is difficult to recruit new workers, but as we speak we are supplementing and training personnel.”

The Knesset Economy Committee on Sunday approved amendments to the COVID-19 regulations at Ben-Gurion Airport in an effort to alleviate some of the current overload, but their effect has yet to be felt.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.