Ben Gurion International Airport (נמל התעופה בן גוריון, Namal HaTe'ūfa Ben Gūryōn, , also referred to by its Hebrew acronym Natbag (נתב"ג), is the largest and busiest international airport in Israel, with about 10.5 million passengers passing through it in 2007. It was known as Wilhelma Airport when it was first founded by the British Mandate of Palestine. It was known as Lod Airport from 1948 until 1973, when the name was changed to honor Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.
The airport is located near the city of Lod, 15 km (9 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv. It is operated by the Israel Airports Authority, a government-owned corporation that manages all public airports and border crossings in the State of Israel.
Ben Gurion Airport is the hub of El Al, Israir Airlines, Arkia Israel Airlines, and Sun d'Or International Airlines. During the 1980s and 1990s, it was a focus city of the now-defunct Tower Air. Today, Terminal 3 is used for international flights, and Terminal 1 is used for domestic flights as well as charter and low-cost flights in the summer months. The airport has three runways and is used by commercial, private, and military aircraft.
The airport is located near Highway 1, the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway, and Highway 40. The airport is accessible by car or public bus. Israel Railways operates train service to and from the airport to certain parts of the country, and taxi stands are located outside the arrivals building. Another transportation option is the shared taxi van, known in Hebrew as a sherut, going to Beer Sheva, Haifa and Jerusalem.
Ben Gurion Airport is considered one of the world's most secure airports, with a security force that includes both police officers and IDF soldiers. Airport security guards operate both in uniform and undercover to maintain a high level of vigilance and detect any possible threats. The airport has been the target of several terrorist attacks, but no attempt to hijack a plane departing from Ben Gurion airport has succeeded.
Ben Gurion International Airport started out in 1936 as Lydda Airport, an airstrip of four concrete runways on the outskirts of the Arab town of Lydda. It was built by the British Mandate of Palestine, chiefly for military purposes. The importance of the facility rose during World War II, as planes arrived from Europe, the Far East and other countries in the Middle East.
The first civilian transatlantic route, Tel Aviv-New York, was inaugurated by TWA in 1946. The British left the airport at the end of April 1948, and the soldiers of the Israel Defence Force captured it on July 10, 1948, in Operation Danny, transferring control to the newly declared State of Israel. Flights resumed on November 24, 1948. That year, 40,000 passengers passed through the terminal. By 1952, the number had risen to 100,000 a month. Within a decade, air traffic increased to the point where local flights had to be redirected to the Sde Dov airfield (SDV) on the northern Tel Aviv coast. By the mid-1960s, 14 international airlines were landing at Lod Airport.
More buildings and runways were added over the years, but with the onset of mass immigration from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union in the 1980s and 90s, as well as the global increase of international business travel, the existing facilities became painfully inadequate, prompting the design of new state-of-the art terminal that could also accommodate the expected tourism influx for the 2000 millennium celebrations. The decision to go ahead with project was reached in January 1994, but Terminal 3 only opened its doors a decade later, on November 2, 2004.
Operation of the old terminal
Initially, the departures check-in area was located on the ground floor. Passengers would proceed upstairs on to the main departures hall, which contained passport control, duty-free shops, VIP lounges, one synagogue and boarding gates. At the gates, travelers would be required to descend a flight of stairs to return to the ground floor where the waiting shuttle-buses would transport them to their airplane on the tarmac. The arrivals hall with passport control, luggage carousels, duty-free pick-up, and customs was on the south end of the building. The shuttle-buses transferred passengers and crews to the terminal from the airplanes that parked on the tarmac over 500 meters (1,640 ft) away. After Terminal 3 opened, Terminal 1 was closed except for national flights to the airport in Eilat, and government flights such as special immigrant flights from North America and Africa.
While Ben Gurion Airport has been a target of Palestinian militant
groups, the adoption of strict security precautions
has ensured that no aircraft departing from Ben Gurion airport has ever been hijacked
. On the other hand, airliners hijacked from other countries have landed at Ben Gurion, contributing to two major incidents in the airport's history. In the first, on May 8, 1972, four Palestinian Black September
terrorists hijacked a Sabena flight
en-route from Vienna, and forced it to land at Ben Gurion airport. Sayeret Matkal
commandos led by Ehud Barak
stormed the plane, killing two of the hijackers and capturing the other two. One passenger was killed. Later that month, on May 30, 1972, in an attack known as the Lod Airport Massacre
, 24 people were killed and 80 injured when three members of the Japanese Red Army
sprayed machine gun fire into the passenger arrival area. The victims included Aharon Katzir
, a prominent protein biophysicist
and brother of Israel's 4th president, Efraim Katzir
, and a group of twenty Puerto Rican
tourists who had just arrived in Israel. The only terrorist who survived was Kozo Okamoto
, who received a life sentence but was set free in a prisoner exchange with the PFLP-GC
Full Airport Name
(Tel Aviv) Ben Gurion International Airport
70100 Tel Aviv, Israel
(03) 975 5555
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Number of Terminals
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to third Sunday in September)
The airport is located 20km (12 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv and 50km (31 miles) west of Jerusalem.
The airport as of 2008
Usage statistics (commercial operations)
|| Total passengers
|| Total operations |
|| 80,187 |
|| 69,226 |
|| 63,206 |
|| 61,202 |
|| 66,638 |
|| 70,139 |
|| 76,735 |
|| 84,568 |
2007 was the busiest year ever at Ben Gurion, with about 10.5 million passengers passing through the airport (an increase of more than 14% over the previous year) on almost 85,000 commercial operations. In 2006, the largest airlines on international routes were: El Al (40.6% of flights), Lufthansa (4.16%), Continental Airlines (3.96%), Israir (3.85%) and Arkia (3.83%). A steep rise in the number of domestic passengers using the airport is expected in the wake of plans to close down Sde Dov Airport (which currently handles considerably more domestic passengers annually than TLV) and build luxury towers on the Sde Dov property. All commercial flights will be rerouted to Ben-Gurion.
In December 2006, Ben Gurion International Airport ranked first among 40 European airports, and 8th out of 77 airports in the world, in a survey, conducted by Airports Council International, to determine the most customer-friendly airport. Tel Aviv placed second in the grouping of airports which carry between 5 and 15 million passengers per year behind Japan's Nagoya Airport. The survey consisted of 34 questions. A random sampling of 350 passengers at the departure gate were asked how satisfied they were with the service, infrastructure and facilities. Ben Gurion received a rating of 3.94 out of 5, followed by Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Copenhagen and Helsinki.
The airport retained its title as the best Middle Eastern airport in the 2007 and 2008 survey.
For the summer of 2009, US Airways has applied to serve Tel Aviv from Philadelphia beginning July 2, 2009.
Terminal 1 re-opened in 2007 as the domestic terminal following extensive renovations, and in July 2008, to cater for summer charter and low-cost flights. It is scheduled to remain open for these charter and low-cost flights for the 2008 summer season, with passengers checking-in and passing through security here, before being bussed to Terminal 3. The terminal will close in October 2008, when it will see further renovation. It will be opened again in Summer 2009, when it is expected to reach its three-month capacity of 600,000 passengers on international flights.
Whilst Terminal 1 was closed between 2003 and 2007, the building served as a venue for various events and large-scale exhibitions including the "Bezalel Academy of Arts Centennial Exhibition" which was held there in 2006. There is now talk of keeping Terminal 1 open 24 hours a day in order to handle charter flights from Europe. The renovations for the terminal were designed by Yosef Assa with three individual atmospheric themes. Firstly, the public halls have a Land-of-Israel character with walls painted in the colors of Israel's Judean, Jerusalem and Galilee mountains. The Departure Hall is given an atmosphere of vacation and leisure, whilst the Arrivals Hall is given a more urban theme as passengers return back to the city.
In February 2006, the Israel Airports Authority announced plans to invest 4.3 million NIS in a new VIP wing for private jet passengers and crews, as well as others interested in avoiding the main terminal. VIP ground services already exist, but a substantial increase in users has justified expanding the facilities, which will also boost airport revenues. The IAA released figures showing significant growth in private jet flights (4,059, a 36.5% increase from 2004) as well as private jet users (14,613, a 46.2% increase from 2004). The new VIP wing, operated by an outside licensee, will be located in an upgraded and expanded section of Terminal 1. All flight procedures (security check, passport control, and customs) will be handled here. This wing will include a hall equipped for press conferences, a deluxe lounge, special meeting rooms equipped with state-of-the-art business facilities, and a designated lounge for flight crews who spend time at the airport between flights. It was announced in January 2008, however, that the IAA planned to construct a new 1000sq metre VIP terminal next to Terminal 3.
Terminal 2 was inaugurated in 1969
resumed operations at the airport after the six-day war
. Terminal 2 served domestic flights until 20 February
when these services moved into the refurbished Terminal 1. Due to increased traffic in the late 1990s
reached at Terminal 1, an international section was added until Terminal 3 was opened. Terminal 2 was slated to be demolished to make room for more freight areas until July 2007
, when it was decided that the terminal would be converted into a special terminal for low-cost airlines.
Terminal 3, which opened on October 28, 2004, replaced Terminal 1 as the main international gateway to and from Israel. The building was designed by Black and Veatch, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), and Moshe Safdie, along with Ram Karmi and other Israeli architects. The inaugural flight was an El Al flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
The new terminal is currently built to serve over 10 million passengers per year, although it could accommodate 16 million passengers a year with the addition of two concourses to the existing three. No future expansion is expected beyond this due to the proximity of the airport to the country's largest population centers and the problem of noise pollution. If necessary, another international airport is planned to be built elsewhere in the country.
Work on Natbag 2000, as the Terminal 3 project was known, was scheduled for completion prior to 2000 in order to handle a massive influx of pilgrims expected for the Millennium celebrations. This deadline was not met due to higher than anticipated costs and a series of work stoppages in the wake of the bankruptcy of the main Turkish contractor. The project eventually cost an estimated one billion US dollars.
Terminal 3 uses the Jetway system. The overall layout is similar to that of airports in Europe and North America, with multiple levels, and considerable distances to walk after disembarking from the aircraft. The walk is assisted by escalators and moving walkways. The ground floor departures hall, with an area of over 10,000 square metres (107,639 sq ft), is equipped with 110 check-in counters and as well as Flight information display systems. A small shopping mall, known as Buy & Bye, is open to both travelers and the general public. The mall, which includes shops, restaurants, and a post office, was planned to be a draw for non-flyers too. On the same level as the mall, passengers enter passport control and the security check. Planes taking off and landing can be viewed from a distinctive tilted glass wall. Car rental counters are located in an intermediate level situated between the departing and arriving passenger halls. Terminal 3 has two synagogues.
After the main security check, passengers wait for their flights in the star-shaped duty-free rotunda. A variety of cafes, restaurants and duty-free shops are located there, open 24 hours a day, as well as banking facilities and a desk for VAT refunds.
Terminal 3 has three concourses (B, C, and D), each leading to eight jetways (numbered 2 through 9). Each concourse is equipped with two bus bays (1 and 1A) from which passengers board the aircraft. Two additional concourses (A and E) will be built if passenger traffic warrants expansion. Free wireless internet is provided throughout the terminal.
The terminal has three business lounges - the exclusive El Al King David Lounge for frequent flyers and two 'Dan' lounges for either privileged or paying flyers. In January 2007, the IAA announced plans for a 120-bed hotel at Terminal 3.
This terminal, built in 1999
, was meant to handle the crowds expected in 2000
, but never officially opened. To date, it has only been used as a terminal for passengers arriving from Asia
during the SARS
Another use for the terminal was for the memorial ceremonies upon the arrival of the casket
of Col. Ilan Ramon
after the Columbia disaster
in February 2003
and the arrival of Elchanan Tenenbaum
and the caskets of 3 Israeli soldiers from Lebanon in January 2004
Ben Gurion International Airport is one of the world's most heavily secured airports. Security operates on several levels.
- All cars, taxis, buses and trucks go through a preliminary security checkpoint before entering the airport compound. Armed guards spot-check the vehicles by looking into cars and taxis, boarding buses, and exchanging a few words with the driver and passengers.
- Armed security personnel stationed at the terminal entrances keep a close watch on those who enter the buildings. If someone arouses their suspicion or looks nervous, they may strike up a conversation to further assess the person's intent. Plainclothes armed personnel patrol the area outside the building, and hidden surveillance cameras operate at all times.
- Inside the building, both uniformed and plainclothes security officers are on constant patrol.
- Departing passengers are personally questioned by security agents even before arriving at the check-in desk. This interview can last as little as five minutes, or as long as an hour if a passenger is selected for additional screening. Luggage and body searches may be conducted. After the search, bags are placed through an X-ray machine before passengers proceed to the check-in counters. All that said, El Al and Ben Gurion airport has for a long time realised that the person is more important than their bags. Therefore, occasionally, if security have assessed a person as a low risk, they will pass them straight through to the checkin desks, bypassing the main x-ray machines. Note that hand baggage is always x-rayed later on.
- After check-in, checked baggage is put in a pressure chamber to trigger any possible explosive devices. Passengers continue through to personal security and passport control, as in other airports. Before passing through the metal detectors and placing hand baggage through the X-ray machine, passports are re-checked and additional questions may be asked. Before boarding the aircraft, passports and boarding passes are checked once again.
- Security procedures for incoming flights are not as stringent, but passengers may be questioned by passport control depending on country of origin, or countries visited prior to arrival in Israel. Passengers who have recently visited countries at war with Israel (all Arab countries except Jordan, Egypt, and Mauritania) may be subject to further questioning.
The closest runway
to terminals 1 and 3 is 12/30, and is followed by a taxiway
. Most landings
take place on this runway from West to East, approaching from the Mediterranean Sea
over southern Tel Aviv. During inclement weather, it may also be used for takeoffs
(Direction 12). A 17 million NIS renovation project was completed in November 2007 which reinforced the runway and made it suitable for future wide-body aircraft
such as the new Airbus A380
. In September 2008, a new ILS
serving the runway will be activated.
In the past, the short runway mainly served cargo aircraft
of the Israeli Air Force
. Today it functions mostly as a taxiway for the quiet runway. Rarely, it is used for landing from north to south (Direction 21). By early in the next decade however, the IAF
facilities adjacent to the short runway are slated to be relocated to Nevatim
and the runway will be lengthened and placed into full commercial usage, enabling a new approach pattern to the field and allowing the airport to increase the number of aircraft movements it can handle. Work to reconstruct and lengthen the runway will begin in Spring 2009. The new runway will be ILS
The longest runway at the airfield, 3,657 meters (11,998 ft), and the main take off runway from east to west (Direction 26/08), referred to as "the quiet runway" since jets taking off in this direction produce less noise pollution
for surrounding residents. This is the newest runway in the airport, built in the early 1970s. A 24 million NIS renovation project completed in February 2006 reinforced the runway and made it suitable for future wide-body aircraft
such as the new Airbus A380
operates the Ben Gurion Airport Railway Station, conveniently located in the lower level of Terminal 3. From this station passengers may head north-west to Tel Aviv
and other destinations in the north, or south-east to Modi'in
. The journey to Tel Aviv Savidor Central Railway Station
takes about 18 minutes and costs 13 NIS (approx. US$3.70). Over a million passengers used the line in 2005. The line to Modi'in is part of a new rail line under construction from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which is scheduled for completion in 2012. The service does not operate on Shabbat
and Jewish holidays. The line to Haifa through Tel-Aviv runs 24 hours a day.
Bus or taxi
The airport is served by regular inter-city bus lines, a special airport shuttle
with express service to Tel Aviv, Sherut
"shared" door to door taxi vans, and standard taxis. An Egged
#5 shuttle bus ferries passengers between the terminals and a small bus terminal in the Airport City industrial park where they can connect to regular Egged bus routes passing through the area. Passengers connecting at Airport City can pay for both rides on the same ticket, not paying extra money for bus #5. Other bus companies directly serve Terminal 3, and the airport also provides a free shuttle bus.
Located on Highway 1
, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, the airport has a total of 11,300 parking spaces
for short and long-term parking. The spaces for long-term parking are situated several kilometers from the terminal, and are reached by a free shuttle bus.
Airlines and destinations
All domestic flights are served by Terminal 1, while all international flights are served by Terminal 3. The largest carrier in terms of passenger numbers is El Al
, followed by Turkish charterer Onur Air
and by German Lufthansa
. This list includes all scheduled destinations served from Ben Gurion International Airport, and excludes charter and occasional destinations.
- Aeroflot-Don (Rostov-On-Don)
- Aerosvit Airlines (Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kiev-Boryspil, Lviv, Odessa, Simferopol)
- Air Baltic (Riga)
- Air Canada (Toronto-Pearson)
- Air Europa (Madrid)
- Air France (Paris-Charles de Gaulle)
- Air Malta (Luqa)
- Air Sinai (Cairo)
- Air Slovakia (Bratislava)
- Alitalia (Milan-Malpensa, Rome-Fiumicino)
- Arkia Israel Airlines (Amman, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Belfast-International, Berlin-Schönefeld, Copenhagen, Cork, Dublin, Eilat, Larnaca, Madrid, Moscow [pending Gov't approval], Ovda, Paris-Charles de Gaulle)
- Austrian Airlines (Vienna)
- Azerbaijan Airlines (Baku)
- Belavia (Minsk)
- bmi (London-Heathrow)
- British Airways (London-Heathrow)
- Brussels Airlines (Brussels)
- Bulgaria Air (Sofia)
- Clickair (Barcelona)
- Continental Airlines (Newark)
- Corendon Airlines (Antalya, Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen)
- Corsairfly (Paris-Orly)
- Croatia Airlines (Dubrovnik, Zagreb)
- Cyprus Airways (Larnaca)
- Czech Airlines (Prague)
- Delta Air Lines (Atlanta, New York-JFK)
- Donbassaero (Dnipropetrovsk) [Seasonal]
- Dubrovnik Airlines (Dubrovnik, Split)
- El Al (Amsterdam, Athens, Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin-Schönefeld, Brussels, Bucharest-Otopeni, Budapest, Cairo, Dnipropetrovsk, Eilat, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Kiev-Boryspil, London-Heathrow, London-Stansted, Los Angeles, Madrid, Marseille, Milan-Malpensa, Minsk, Moscow-Domodedovo, Mumbai, Munich, New York-JFK, Newark, Odessa, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Prague, Rome-Fiumicino, St. Petersburg, Sofia, Toronto-Pearson, Vienna, Warsaw, Zurich)
- Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa)
- Finnair (Helsinki) [Seasonal]
- Georgian Airways (Tbilisi)
- Germania (Berlin-Tegel)
- Iberia (Madrid)
- Israir Airlines (Eilat, London-Stansted, Moscow-Sheremetyevo [pending Gov't approval], Ovda, Rome-Fiumicino)
- Jat Airways (Belgrade)
- Jetairfly (Liège)
- Jet2 (Leeds/Bradford, Manchester) [begins 2009
- KD Avia (Kaliningrad)
- KLM (Amsterdam)
- Korean Air (Seoul-Incheon)
- LOT Polish Airlines (Krakow, Warsaw)
- Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich [pending Gov't approval/begins 2009 )
- Malév Hungarian Airlines (Budapest)
- New Axis Airways (Marseille, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Toulouse)
- Olympic Airlines (Athens)
- Rossiya (Moscow-Vnukovo, St. Petersburg)
- Royal Jordanian (Amman)
- Sayakhat Airlines (Almaty)
- Sun d'Or International Airlines (Antalya, Berlin-Schönefeld, Bratislava, Zagreb)
- Swiss International Air Lines (Zürich)
- S7 Airlines (Adler/Sochi)
- Tandem Aero (Chisinau)
- TAROM (Bucharest-Otopeni)
- Thomsonfly (London-Luton, Manchester)
- Transaero (Moscow-Domodedovo, Moscow-Sheremetyevo)
- TUIfly (Berlin-Tegel, Hamburg, Cologne/Bonn, Munich, Memmingen)
- Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Atatürk)
- Ural Airlines (Ekaterinburg)
- US Airways (Philadelphia) [begins July 3]
- Uzbekistan Airways (Tashkent)
- Arkia Israel Airlines (Amsterdam, Belfast International, Venice)
- Aegean Airlines (Heraklion)
- Aigle Azur (Paris-Orly)
- Air Mediterranee (Paris)
- Bulgarian Air Charter (Bourgas, Varna) [Seasonal]
- Elbrus Avia
- Eurocypria Airlines (Larnaca, Paphos) [Seasonal]
- Eurofly (Milan-Bergamo, Milan-Malpensa, Rome-Fiumicino, Verona)
- Free Bird Airlines (Antalya)
- Futura International Airways (Alicante, Barcelona, Malaga)
- Hemus Air
- Israir Airlines (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin-Schoenefeld, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, London-Stansted, Milan-Malpensa, Moscow, Munich, Nice, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Prague, Rijeka, Rome-Fiumicino, Stockholm-Arlanda, Stuttgart, Venice, Verona)
- Issta Direct operated by Israir Airlines (London-Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle)
- Kuban Airlines (Krasnodar)
- Neos (Bologna, Milan-Malpensa, Rome-Fiumicino, Venice, Verona)
- Opera Romana operated by Mistral Air (Bergamo, Brescia Naples, Rome-Ciampino, Sicily)
- Onur Air (Antalya, Budrom, Dalaman, Istanbul-Atatürk, Marmaris)
- Pegasus Airlines (Antalya, Istanbul, Izmir)
- Romavia (Bucharest-Otopeni)
- Sabra Express operated by Israir Airlines (Stockholm-Arlanda)
- Sky Airlines (Antalya)
- Sun d'Or International Airlines (Łódź)
- Thomas Cook Airlines (London-Stansted, Manchester)
- Travel Service (Budapest)
- Windjet (Catania, Palermo, Rome-Fiumicino)