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Air traffic climbs at Israel's Tel Aviv airport in 2023 but war weighs

1 min

Air travel to and from Israel plunged in the last three months of 2023 amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, but the number of passengers travelling through Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv still rose 10% in 2023.

People walk next to a sign directing for Shelter after landing in Israel at the arrivals section of Ben Gurion International airport in Lod near Tel Aviv,  Reuters/Marius Bosch

Air travel to and from Israel plunged in the last three months of 2023 amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, but the number of passengers travelling through Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv still rose 10% in 2023.

The number of international travellers reached 21.1 million in 2023, up from 19.2 million in 2022, the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) said in a report on Sunday.

Over the first 9 months of the year, before the Oct. 7 attacks by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, passenger traffic surged by an annual 38.5%, to 19.1 million.

But since then, traffic has plunged, culminating in a 78% drop in November and 71% dive in December, the IAA said.

With almost all foreign carriers having halted flights to and from Israel as a result of heavy rocket attacks from Gaza and the war, flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines benefited, with the number of passengers rising 32.5% to 5.5 million in 2023 for a 26.3% market share at Ben Gurion.

Wizz Air was the second-largest airline last year with a more than 9% share; passenger traffic was up 35.5% despite the company halting flights in the fourth quarter. Ryanair was third with a 5.4% share, although its number of passengers dipped 12% in 2023.

"Ben Gurion remains operative while maintaining and observing the safety and security of the planes and passengers," said Udi Bar Oz, managing director of Ben Gurion.

In December, nearly 80% of passengers flew El Al, followed by smaller Israeli carrier Israir at 10% and FlyDubai at 3.2%. During the month, just seven foreign carriers flew to Israel.

Bar Oz noted that at 17%, the United States - mainly via New York's JFK airport - was the country with the highest volume of activity in December, followed by France and Britain.

Airlines such as Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian and Aegean have resumed flights to Tel Aviv. Air France and Ryanair are slated to restart this week and next week.

In 2023, 3 million tourists visited Israel, up from 2.7 million in 2022.

Reporting by Steven Scheer

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