The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has contacted the Ministry of Transport, writing "Disruptions expected this coming weekend at Ben Gurion Airport will cause the cancelation or postponement of 150 international flights, thereby disrupting the plans of tens of thousands of innocent passengers."
IATA Israel head Kobi Zussman sent a message to Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz calling on him to exercise his authority as head of civil aviation in Israel to remove the threat of the planned strike at Ben Gurion Airport from the beginning of the Sabbath to its end.
Zussman add, "According to reports, the root of the dispute does not concern aviation activity at Ben Gurion Airport; it lies in political matters at the local and municipal level, which are certainly unconnected to the airlines and the passengers using their services."
The Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancelation or Change of Condition), which mandates compensation of cancelation or delay of flights, does not apply to a strike, which is also defined in international aviation law as a force majeure event over which an airline has no control, and is therefore not responsible for the resulting delays.
The airlines are preparing for the upcoming Ben Gurion Airport strike by changing their flight times. For example, Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd., announced earlier that it had changed the times for a number of flights scheduled for the weekend by moving them forward or backward according to the beginning and ending times of the Sabbath on Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, respectively. The flights involved are to Eilat and Eastern Europe.
The Israel Airports Authority announced that flights to trans-Atlantic destinations would take off as scheduled, so the strike will affect mostly passengers traveling to destinations in Europe.
The background to the threats by the Airports Authority workers' committee is a committee established by the Ministry of the Interior – one of six committees deliberating on various matters throughout Israel. In the case of Ben Gurion Airport, what is under consideration is whether the Airports Authority should set aside some of its revenue for municipalities in whose jurisdiction the airport allegedly operates. According to the state's definition, Ben Gurion Airport occupies a cylindrical area exempt from paying property tax to any specific local authority. The local authorities are now trying again to wrest some of this revenue from the Airports Authority.
The Airports Authority has petitioned the High Court of Justice against the minister of the interior; the committee charged with changing boundaries; the Attorney General; the Lod, Or Yehuda, Yehud-Monoson, and Shoham municipalities; and the Emek Lod and Hevel Modi'in Regional Councils. The Airports Authority is seeking an injunction ordering these parties "to refrain from any action changing the municipal status of the Ben Gurion Airport site."
In its petition, the Airports Authority states that division of the revenue obtained from operating Ben Gurion Airport other than to the state will have an immediate negative impact on civil aviation in Israel, and emphasizes that "This matter has been repeatedly raised again by the minister of the interior and taken off the agenda."
The Airports Authority wonders whether, if it is decided that the local authorities should receive a share of its revenue, they will be able to meet their corresponding obligations to make enormous investments in the security and safety arrangements needed on the airport grounds.
The Airports Authority's revenue totaled NIS 3.44 billion in 2016, compared with NIS 3.26 billion in 2015. According to the Airport Authority's reports, its expenses totaled NIS 2.7 billion in 2016. The total surplus in 2016 was NIS 287 million. The Airports Authority derives most of its revenue from fees paid by passengers passing through Ben Gurion Airport, fees paid by airlines, and rent paid for commercial space on the airport premises.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on November 30, 2017
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