Amid scenes of chaos for months at Ben Gurion International Airport, the Israel Airports Authority recommended on Sunday that travelers ditch their suitcases when going on vacation this summer.
Ofer Lapler, spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority, said the airfield was dealing with a shortfall of 1,400 workers and advised passengers to “come with patience” when flying out of the country.
He advised people to bring small suitcases on wheels that could be taken on board as hand luggage, rather than larger pieces of luggage that need to be checked in.
Lapler also called for more people to consider working at the airport to ease the congestion, claiming it’s “a great place to work.”
The staff shortages have led to chaotic scenes at Israel’s travel hub since travel restrictions were mostly done away with in March and much of the world has opened up to tourists.
In addition to the problems at Ben Gurion Airport, El Al customers have recently faced a slew of cancellations as pilots strike to demand that the company return their salaries to pre-COVID levels.
Passengers arriving at Ben Gurion’s Terminal 1 have been forced to wait in lines that stretch out the door, while the main Terminal 3 has seen the departures hall packed to the limit.
Lapler said that since March, Ben Gurion has experienced a 340% increase in passengers and flights. He further said that the Israel Airports Authority has committed to dealing only with existing flights and was resisting pressure to add additional flights during the current peak travel season, which ends in October.
Lapler noted that there were staffing problems at airports and airlines in a number of countries, and said that Israel was in fact in an “excellent position.”
At London’s Heathrow Airport, a baggage system malfunction on Friday led to two-hour waits for passengers at baggage claim, resulting in bags piling up in one of the world’s busiest airports; some travelers were forced to board connecting flights without their luggage.
And Gatwick Airport, London’s second busiest, has been forced to restrict its activity this August to 850 departures and arrivals a day, 10% below its pre-pandemic peak.
The UK’s Transport Department and Civil Aviation Authority penned an open letter to airlines last week requesting that carriers cancel flights in advance rather than at the last minute.
Meanwhile, NBC News reported that 6,500 flights were canceled in the United States on Thursday and Friday, with nearly 12,000 flights delayed. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has called on travel industry leaders to find solutions to the disruption, with concerns of mass cancellations for the July 4 weekend.