Covid-19: IAA predicts slow recovery and period of adaptation at Ben Gurion

By Andrew Pentol |

Ben-Gurion small for web

All shops, with the exception of a few food and beverage outlets at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport remain closed. (Photo credit: Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons)

Israel Airports Authority (IAA) is a predicting a slow recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic across its aviation and commercial business at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport.

All shops have been closed at the airport, with the exception of a few small food and beverage outlets since 15 March. This coincided with an order from the government to close all non-essential public places across Israel.

The airport remains in operation for certain domestic and international flights, but all foreigners (including US citizens who are not Israeli citizens or permanent residents) have been forbidden from entering the country since 18 March.

JR/Duty Free is the longstanding incumbent at Ben Gurion Airport, where it has operated since 1988. In 2017, the retailer secured a 10-year contract to continue operating at the airport (Terminal 1 and Terminal 3) in partnership with German family-owned company Gebr. Heinemann.

Yoram Shapira, Deputy Director General, Commerce and Business Development, Israel Airports Authority told TRBusiness: “My feeling is that airlines not currently operating will re-start at the beginning of July or early August. Things won’t be like they were before the crisis. Everything start slowly and take time.”


He added: “The reality is that the world cannot survive without aviation. You cannot block countries and you cannot block people. We will either find a way to live with the virus or the world will solve the problem. I have no idea what will happen.”


JR/Duty Free is the longstanding duty free incumbent at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport.

Shapira, who is continuing to work in the IAA office on a daily basis along with certain members of his team — other members of his team are working at home — says the company is supporting its retail/commercial tenants during this difficult period.

“From 1 March until 15 March, when the shops and food and beverage outlets were operational, tenants were only paying the percentage from turnover and no minimum guarantee.

“For the period 15 March, until the end of April or whenever the shops can reopen, they will not pay anything.”

Ensuring the airport is primed to hit the ground running when the recovery begins is the prime objective. Shapira commented: “When the recovery does start, we will have to adapt the contract conditions of our tenants, particularly in the first six months. This is because things will not return to normal overnight.

“It will take the IAA, our concessionaires, the passengers and airlines a few months to recover.”

Once things do start improving, Shapira believes it won’t be long for Israelis beginning travelling again. “You have to remember that Israel is kind of like an island. The only way to connect with other countries is via the airport and airlines. We are the main gate to and from Israel.

“All business and leisure activities will start here. I believe it will take time, but we will recover.”

Shapira, who predicts commercial revenue will be 50% to 65% lower than initially predicted said: “It is difficult to know exactly what will happen. Sometimes certain things happen which you know will start one day and finish the next.”

“The Covid-19 crisis is continuing and having an impact around the world. If people want to fly to North America, Europe or Asia, for example, they have to believe they will feel safe there. Now, they are not feeling safe anywhere so it is a massive problem.”


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