Workers, Airports Authority, trade blame for hours of delays

EL AL plane 1 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
EL AL plane 1 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Disruptions in the loading and unloading of baggage during the busiest day of the year at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Thursday led to delays of up to three hours in departures and landings. The management said no delays were expected over the course of the weekend, when far fewer flights are scheduled. According to Gali Gabay, spokeswoman of the airport workers' committee, the disruptions were caused due to a lack of manpower, as the number of passengers flying in and out of Israel rises as the holidays near. "This is a very happy day for Israel's tourism industry, and this year will see a record number of tourists and emigrants visit and enter Israel. But someone at the management of Israel Airports Authority has forgotten to prepare for the load, despite the fact that the workers' committee warned the management in advance," Gabay told The Jerusalem Post. Gabay denied the claim that the delays were purposely caused by the workers in a attempt to pressure the Airports Authority to add more workers ahead of the holiday season. "On the contrary. There are 13 crews of baggage porters on 20-30 flights an hour, what means they actually worked harder in order to load and off-load all the flights. The truth cannot be overlooked; the fact is that there is a serious shortage of workers." The management of Israel Airports Authority issued a response saying: "The workers' committee caused the delays in loading because they think more employees are needed, especially with the up coming holidays' season. Gabi Ophir, director-general of the Israel Airports Authority, instructed the relevant officials to find a solution immediately." The management added that no delays are expected during the weekend due to the small number of flight departures and landings. Earlier on Thursday Ophir had said he plans to petition to the High Court of Justice to change what he says are corrupt hiring policies at the Airport Authority. Ophir claims that the recruitment of manpower in the Airports Authority is "not kosher," allowing political appointments and nepotism. Also at Ben-Gurion on Thursday, in an incident reminiscent of February's near crash between an El Al flight and an Air Iberia plane, another Air Iberia plane nearly landed at a landing strip that had been closed for construction. Over 54,000 passengers passed through Ben-Gurion airport Thursday in 301 flights, the busiest day of the year. That record may very well be surpassed during the upcoming holiday season, during which some 25,500 passengers are expected to enter Israel via Ben-Gurion International Airport, and 26,500 will depart there every day. Turkey heads the list of Israelis' favorite destinations; 10,000 passengers will fly in 52 flights every day during the holidays. Second is the United States, with 6,000 passengers expected to fly there in 20 flights a day. Third and fourth are France and Italy.