Airlines join forces against new airport toll

The Israeli Airports Authority recently announced a plan to raise the price of the passenger toll for passenger who enters Israel via Ben-Gurion Airport.

bg airport 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
bg airport 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Local and foreign airline companies that operate in Israel formed an emergency committee to fight against the Israeli Airports Authority's plan to raise the airport toll at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Representatives of 30 foreign and Israeli airline companies gathered at an emergency meeting on Sunday in Tel Aviv to discuss their joint reaction to the IAA announcement on raising the airport toll. Three weeks ago the IAA announced a plan to raise the price of the passenger toll from $13 to $21 per passenger who enters Israel via Ben-Gurion International Airport. Simultaneously, the IAA informed the airline companies it would also update the airport toll that is paid by the carriers for the airport's services from $13 per passenger on average to the total sum of $38 per passenger on average. The plan, which is due to go into effect as soon as the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee approves it, has already been approved by the Transportation Minister, Shaul Mofaz, the Finance Ministry and the government. The IAA's decision to raise toll prices emerges from the Lapidot Committee's conclusions regarding severe failures in aviation safety at Ben-Gurion Airport. The IAA recently presented the Knesset with a NIS 1.2 billion plan for the improvement and the upgrade of the safety and the security in Terminal 3. The renovation plan includes the building of a new and higher control tower, the lengthening of runway 03-21, the installation of smart flight controlling systems and more. In addition, the IAA has decided to raise toll prices in reaction to the erosion in the dollar exchange rate. "It is reasonable and natural to update the toll prices. The IAA has been suffering from income erosion for quite some time. While the last time the toll prices were updated was more than 10 years ago. The passenger toll in Israel is of the cheapest in the world and in order to carry out the renovation plan for the safety of the passengers, the IAA must raise prices," the IAA's spokeswoman said in response. The new airline companies' forum had decided to join forces and to do all it takes to prevent the price update, they said on Sunday. "The representatives of the airline companies have decided to work together during this difficult time the international aviation industry is going through due to the increase in fuel prices and the drop in the dollar exchange rate that shake up the entire industry. We will work to prevent further and unnecessary damage to the carriers and the passengers," the forum's announcement read. "The increase in airport toll prices will cost the companies millions of dollars a year. The companies call on the transportation ministry to be responsible especially during this economically hard period of time," the announcement continued. "It doesn't make sense and it's not reasonable to raise prices by 51%. If the IAA wants to improve the safety of the flights in Terminal 3 it should use its own resources and budgets to do it. If it's broke, it can take a loan from the government and pay it back in five years so it can raise the passenger toll even higher since it's the cheapest in the world," a senior manager of one of the foreign airline companies in Israel told The Jerusalem Post. "Only three years ago they finished building Terminal 3. The airline companies should not carry the burden of their mistakes," he added. "It would be a death blow to the small airline companies for whom such an increase in costs will shift them from profit to loss. Fewer carriers will fly to Israel and the airline companies will be forced to raise plane ticket fares. The IAA should think ahead. It won't be long before the world financial crisis will impact the Israeli economy as well and the tourism industry will collapse all over again," another representative of a large airline company in Israel told the Post. The Transportation Ministry declined to comment.