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Flights delayed, luggage held up at Ben Gurion as summer travel heats up

Travelers on Friday experienced flight delays and long waits for their bags at Ben Gurion Airport, apparently due to a combination of a staff shortage and large number of flights at the height of the summer travel season.

The Israel Airports Authority acknowledged a “temporary delay” in the unloading and loading of baggage from planes, which it said it was working to address. In a statement, the IAA said it expected the matter “to soon be solved.”

The airport workers union attributed the issues to a lack of manpower while denying the delays were the result of a labor action, as some Hebrew media outlets and travelers suggested.

“There are hundreds of people near every conveyor belt and they’re just not working,” Harel Cohen, a Ra’anana resident, told the Ynet news site. “There are people here who think maybe there is a strike.”

According to Cohen, hundreds of arriving travelers waited for an hour by the conveyor belt before the IAA informed them of the delay.

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“We’ve been waiting here already for two hours, it’s crazy,” a passenger who arrived from Italy told Channel 12 news.

She said that airport staff had begun to hand out water to passengers.

שביתה איטלקית בנתב"ג? בשעה האחרונה נרשמים עיכובים בטיסות היוצאות. מדוברות רש"ת נמסר כי העיכוב הוא בפריקת והעמסת מזוודות ותפעול של חלק מהמטוסים@sharonidan

— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 4, 2023

“People gave up and simply left their suitcases, others tried to go to the tarmac and search for their cases,” Noam, another arrival who waited two hours, told Kan news.

Roni, who returned from a trip to Georgia, told Ynet he sent his daughter back home after she came to pick him up from the airport.

“I set her back because I realized that this will take time. We’ll take a taxi,” he said.

“El Al suggested that we don’t go home, arguing that it will be hard for us to get our things back, so we are waiting even though none of the conveyor belts are working,” he added.

Despite the delays, an IAA spokesperson told the Walla news site that passengers could continue to check in as usual to ensure a quick departure once flights resumed.

Earlier this year, Israeli authorities also attributed staffing shortages to extended delays for arriving non-Israeli travelers at passport control.

Over a decade ago, in 2011, Israel identified an urgent need for another international airport that would relieve some of the congestion at Ben Gurion Airport but has struggled to implement the decision.

According to Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority, Ben Gurion Airport will reach its maximum capacity of 40 million passengers and 250,000 flights annually by 2029.