Ben Gurion airport fails to make large airport category

Ben Gurion Airport

Large airports are those with at least 25 million passengers annually. Israel's main international airport should make the cut this year.

Despite expectations and calculations, Israel's Ben Gurion Airport was not included among the world's largest airports in 2019. Passenger traffic at the airport totaled 24 million in 2019, more than the 22.3 million passengers who passed through the airport in 2018, but below that 25 million cutoff for the Airports Council International's large airport category.

Ben Gurion Airport is likely to enter the large airport category in 2020. Passenger traffic through the airport is still growing. The pace of growth is slowing - from 15% in 2017 to 11% in 2018 and 9% in 2019 - but it is still double the rate of growth in global passenger traffic.

Looking back over the past decade, passenger traffic totaled 163 million, 48.5 million of which was on El Al Airlines. El Al's market share in the decade was 36%, but this fell in recent years when the skies were opened to foreign airlines, leaving El Al with a market share of less than 25%.

Turkish Airlines, which currently operates 10 daily flights to Istanbul, mainly as an intermediate destination for connection flights, flew 7.33 million passengers to and from Israel in the past decade. easyJet, the first UK low-cost airlines to land in Israel, was in third place with 5.85 million passengers, followed by Arkia Airlines with 5.78 passengers and Lufthansa with 4.78 million passengers.

Preference for low-cost flights

In the report for 2019, Lufthansa is no longer in the top ten, which highlights the trend in the Israeli market towards preference for low-cost airlines. Russian airline Aeroflot, which also features connection flights to various destinations, was in sixth place in the past decade with 4.48 million passengers, followed by Israir in seventh place with 4.44 passengers. Wizz Air, which has been operating in Israel for only five years, nevertheless grabbed eighth place with 4.22 million passengers in the decade, following by Ukraine Airlines and Alitalia.

2019 featured the increasing prominence of low-cost airlines, while El Al headed the list with 5.83 passengers for the year, 3% more than in 2018, when it failed to increase its number of passengers.

Second place was taken by Wizz Air, which overtook Turkish Airlines. Wizz Air flew 1.28 million passengers to and from Israel in 2019, 21% more than in 2018. easyJet was in third place with 1.172 million passengers, 15% more than in 2018. Turkish Airlines, which lost ground to the low-cost players, was still the leading foreign legacy airline with 1.171 million passengers, 8% more than in 2018, putting it in fourth place.

Israir flew 768,000 passengers in 2019, an impressive 17% more than in 2018. Arkia flew 760,000 passengers, 11% more than in the preceding year.

Airports are separated into categories according to the number of passengers passing through them. Passengers counted are those landing or taking off, and those on connection flights who are only making an intermediate stop in the airport. The latter passengers are counted twice: when they land and when they take off.

There are three categories of airports: large, medium, and small. Ben Gurion Airport is currently classed as a medium-sized airport; only five years ago, it was in the small airport category.

Large airports are tested for the level of service that they supposedly provide to passengers. The fees that a country charges passengers can change accordingly; the large airports are more in demand, and when demand rises, the price can increase. Will the Israel Airports Authority try to increase its fees?

Airlines at Ben Gurion Airport currently pay $26 per passenger ticket at Terminal 3 and $11 per passenger ticket at Terminal 1. The fees are based on demand for the airport, ranging from $40-70 per passenger at large airports and reaching as high as $100 at crowded airports such as Heathrow Airport in London, one of the world's most popular airports among airlines.

Regardless of whether or not Ben Gurion Airport is classed as a large airport, the Israel Airports Authority is preparing for growth in passenger traffic by development and enlarging space, including a new terminal. The plans, which will cost billions of shekels, include adding a check-in counter with independent stations, more conveyor belts for passengers' luggage, expanding parking lots, etc.

China's goal: Overtake Atlanta airport

Which are the world's largest airports that Ben Gurion Airport is likely to join, possibly as early as next year? The list is topped by Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, the annual passenger traffic of which is 107 million passengers, followed by Beijing Capital International Airport in China, the country with the most growth in tourist traffic. Beijing Capital's 2019 passenger traffic was 101 million passengers.

Daxing Airport, the world's most sophisticated airport, opened in China last year. From the air, Daxing looks like a five-pointed starfish. It boasts the world's largest terminal building. The airport contains 400 robot service stations, and promises that passengers will not have to walk more than eight minutes to get from the security stations to the flight gate. The airport will serve 45 million passengers by 2021, and its capacity is slated to expand to 72 million passengers by 2025. When all parts of the airport are completed (it currently has four of the seven runways planned), the numbers will grow to 100 million passengers and four million tons of cargo.

The Chinese aviation authorities have already stated that their goal is to break Hartsfield-Jackson Airport's record. This ambition is not unrealistic. Chinese passengers are slated to amount to four million a year, 20% of global passengers, by 2040. The world's third biggest airport is Dubai International Airport, with 90 million passengers.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is in fourth place with 87.5 million passengers, followed by Haneda Airport in Tokyo with 87.1 million passengers. Tokyo is hosting the Olympic Games this year, which is likely to improve its rating.

O'Hare Airport in Chicago is next with 83.3 million passengers, followed by the leading European airport - Heathrow, which has almost reached its maximum capacity with 80 million passengers. Heathrow will undergo a major expansion with a third runway, which will enable it to offer more slots in the coming years. Brexit is also liable to affect passenger traffic in the UK, primarily from London to Europe.

Eighth place is held by Hong Kong International Airport with 74.5 million passengers. Last year's turbulent demonstrations in Hong Kong also affected the airport, forcing a halt in takeoffs and landings. Expansion and upgrading by 2030 are planned for this airport.

In ninth place is Shanghai Pudong International Airport, through which 74 million passengers passed in 2019, followed by Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris with 72.2 million passengers.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 7, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Ben Gurion Airport
Ben Gurion Airport
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