Just in time for the summer flying season, a 21st runway has been opened at Ben Gurion Airport. The new runway had its maiden landing Thursday morning, when an El Al plane arriving from Rhodes arrived in Israel.
The project, said Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, is “an additional stage in the implementation of the Open Skies policy, allowing more and competition between airlines that will result in lower prices for fares.” With the new runway, he said, more airlines will be able to schedule more flights, increasing the number of seats, the number of flights, and the number of carriers flying to and from Israel. Under the Open Sky policy, adopted last year after lengthy negotiations, Israel made it easier for European airlines to fly to and from Israel, considered a lucrative market.
In addition, said Ovadia Eli, chairman of the Israel Airports Authority, the new runway – along with other recent changes made at Ben Gurion Airport – would help improve safety for flyers. “We are in the midst of an NIS 3.5 billion infrastructure improvement program, using IAA funds, which will enhance safety for all those flying into and out of Israel.” Under the Open Skies policy, Israel aims to double air traffic to and from the country, which will require a significant upgrading of safety features at Ben Gurion. The opening of the new runway was among these upgrades, he said.
The runway project took about four years to complete and cost about NIS 1 billion. In addition to the new runway, safety improvements were made to the existing runways, Ben Gurion officials said, ensuring that there was much less chance of collisions or other mishaps on the ground. Besides the safety improvements, the airport also recently implemented new noise regulations, reducing the amount of noise emanating from the airport during the early morning and late evening hours.