Israel’s main airport is planning a major, billion-shekel ($280 million) expansion to serve the steadily increasing number of travelers to the Jewish state – already at recordhigh levels.Barring a war or deterioration in the security situation, the airport expects to see more than 25 million individual arrivals and departures in 2019. The congestion that is bringing has forced the Israel Airports Authority to expand its facilities.Ben-Gurion’s main Terminal 3 will add more than 36,000 sq.m. of space on four floors. The airport will also place 88 new check-in counters adjacent to the existing terminal, accessible by a pedestrian footbridge.This fourth passenger wing, Wing E, can accommodate up to 1,800 passengers per hour.The planned expansion is being designed to reduce the load on the general check-in area and improves service for passengers.Ben-Gurion Airport handles more than 90% of visitors entering and exiting the Jewish state. Those entries and exits, or transits, occurred some 20.8 million times in 2017, according to data from the Israel Aviation Authority, a sharp uptick from 17.9 million transits in 2016. The airport’s 2018 estimate is 23 million transits, placing it among the world’s busiest airports.The rapid uptick in passenger traffic has taken place despite the negligible number of passengers using the Lod facility for connecting flights.Flagship airliner El Al has not adopted a transit-friendly business model for security reasons, putting it at a competitive disadvantage to airliners like Turkish Airlines, which has turned Istanbul into a major transit hub.More than 100 airliners now service Ben-Gurion Airport, a handful of which have launched operations in the past year. The increase in competition comes after Israel signed the Open Skies agreement a decade ago, permitting more European airliners to fly to Tel Aviv.This summer, a number of mostly European low-cost airlines are reportedly planning to inaugurate service to Tel Aviv, further increasing traffic.A multi-year expansion plan is already in progress, with recent renovations to Terminal 1, which services domestic locations and hosts low-cost airliners like Wizz Air, EasyJet and Ryanair.The relatively strong local currency has made shekel- priced flights cheaper for Israelis, as have low oil prices and greater competition.It took three years from 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza for tourism numbers to bounce back. But by 2017, a record-breaking total of 3.6 million foreign tourists visited Israel.In the midst of 2018’s busy summer season, the airport plans to setup 25 temporary service counters in a 2,500 sq.m. structure adjacent to the Terminal 3 building.This comes on the heels of a new passenger wing inaugurated in February that offered eight additional plane exit gates and four bus exit gates.