Purim In Israel Finds Ben Gurion Airport In “Yom Kippur Mode,” El Al Requests Loan Of $700 Million To “Ensure Continued Existence”


Ben Gurion Airport is reportedly closing operations in half of its international terminals and reducing manpower by 79% following Israel’s announcement on Monday night that all travelers arriving in Israel will now be required to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Scores of flights have been canceled in the wake of the announcement and two of the five check-in areas in Terminal 3 are being closed, Ben-Gurion announced on Tuesday.

Israel Airports Authority (IAA) workers union stated it was operating on “Yom Kippur mode” with reports saying that only 30% of airport employees are reporting to work. All temporary employees have been put on leave without pay and other employees have been put on annual leave.

Israel’s Airport Authority is also closing Ramon Airport in Eilat at night, a Channel 12 News report said on Tuesday.

The head of the IAA workers union, Pinchas Idan, told Channel 12 that there will be widespread layoffs at Ben-Gurion before Pesach. “I have no words. I’ve worked for the authority for over 40 years…We’ve never experienced something like, not during the Gulf War or the first and second intifadas. There’s never been anything like this.”

Arkia and Israir Airlines also announced on Monday that they are ending their international flights for the time being. The airlines will continue with internal flights to Eilat from Ben-Gurion and Haifa.

El Al, Israel’s national airline, stated that it will continue to run reduced international flights following Netanyahu’s announcement on Monday night, saving Israel from complete isolation.

On Sunday, El Al reported an expected revenue decline of $140-160 million for the months of January to April 2020. The airline is requesting a loan of $700 million from the Israeli government to ensure its continued existence, according to a Ynet report on Tuesday. The amount is based on El Al’s calculations for a scenario of being almost completely out of operation for the next three months.

According to the Finance Ministry’s demand, the financial assistance will be provided as a loan rather than compensation and El Al will be required to provide collateral for repayment, an extremely difficult position for the company, which was amidst a process of taking out loans for a $1.6 million fleet of new airplanes when the coronavirus crisis hit and was reportedly already in a state of declining revenue due to competition from low-cost airlines at Ben-Gurion.

The Population and Immigration Authority reported that 12,246 foreigners have voluntarily left Israel since Monday night’s announcement.

Also on Tuesday, Israel Railways announced that passengers arriving at Ben-Gurion will no longer be permitted to use the train station at the airport. The station will still be open for airport employees and Israeli citizens traveling within Israel who will be required to show their plane tickets to railway employees.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)