Chaos at Ben Gurion Airport: Severe Worker Shortage Leads to Delays in Flights

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by Ifi Reporter Category:Health Aug 4, 2023

During the busy afternoon hours of Friday, chaos ensued at Ben Gurion Airport as delays in luggage unloading and loading caused significant disruptions to flight departures. Despite initial reports of a strike being the cause, both the Airports Authority Board (Rashat) and management have denied any labor action. Instead, they attributed the delays to an acute shortage of workers, resulting in immense pressure on airport operations.

 

 

August, known as one of the most demanding and stressful months for Israel, particularly on Fridays, witnessed a rapid escalation of problems due to the severe worker shortage. Hundreds of frustrated passengers from various flights were left waiting for their luggage for nearly two hours, receiving no updates or explanations from airport employees. Rumors about an Italian strike or a sudden worker walkout quickly spread among the stranded passengers, but these reports turned out to be false.

A senior official from the Israel Defense Forces confirmed the delays, explaining that the pressure had been alleviated in the last hour. The urgency to clear the backlog before Shabbat likely motivated the diligent work from the limited staff.

Israel has been experiencing record-breaking travel numbers in the current summer months, with 2.534 million passengers flying internationally in July, a 20% increase compared to the same month last year. Popular destinations such as Turkey, Greece, the USA, and Cyprus contributed to this surge. The total number of passengers passing through Israel since the beginning of the year has reached around 13.5 million, and this figure is expected to reach approximately 25 million by the year's end.

The summer months had been a cause for concern due to the potential for a repeat of last year's chaos, which became almost routine for Israel. The aviation industry resumed operations in April 2022 following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, but the high demand for flights during the holidays and summer, coupled with the ongoing worker shortage, created long lines, extensive wait times, delays, cancellations, and lost luggage. The airport's former director, Shmuel Zakai, had highlighted the need for approximately 1,000 more workers for smooth operations. While the Israel Defense Forces made significant recruitments and implemented various measures, a shortage of about 300-500 workers persists, causing visible signs of strain during this year's travel season.

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