Open Skies, open airport – a new reality for the airlines

This opening is getting bigger and bigger.

Following the “Open Skies” agreement between Israel and Europe that was signed in June 2013, Ben Gurion International airport is opening for the expected extra flights on European routes.

From Sunday, terminal 1 west of the airport will serve international flights. Previously the old terminal building mostly served domestic flights, while  international flights used terminal 3.

The Israeli airlines now understand that the approach they took towards the open skies agreement with Europe was a big mistake.

The agreement is being implemented in small steps, but there are already signs of change. Israeli airports authority (IAA) spokesman Ofer Lefler said on 24 October that terminal 1 west will handle 50-60 weekly flights to Europe this winter. “We already see more requests for slots for next summer, and this demand will grow,” he said. Terminal 1 will serve low cost carriers that will pay lower handling fees, he added.

At this stage, passengers  checking in at terminal 1 will be transferred to the main terminal. There they will get duty-free services and will board the planes. “In the future we may consider a duty-free store in terminal 1,” Lefler said.

When the agreement comes into full effect in 2018, EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights to Israel from anywhere in the EU, and Israeli carriers will be able to operate flights to airports throughout the EU.

The agreement is expected to encourage greater direct connections, which in turn could drive down prices even further.

The new reality in the Israeli aviation market is taking shape, and the special terminal will expedite the competition. Those who keep whining instead of competing may find themselves out of the market.

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