Named after Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion is the largest airport in Israel. It is an international airport and has provided services to over 15 million passengers in the last year. It has been in existence since 1936 with many upgrades and improvements since; the most recent one being in 2004 when terminal three officially opened.
Past accolades for the facility include being ranked first out of 40 European airports and 8th out of 77 world airports in customer service as well as holding the title of best Middle Eastern airport for two years in a row.
Some of its unique features are the central hall with its signature “rainfall fountain” as its center and its large Synagogue.
Distance from major cities
Israel’s Ben Gurion airport is located less than 12 miles away from Tel Aviv and about 31.5 from Jerusalem, which can translate into a 30-60 car ride if you don’t encounter rush hour traffic.
Passengers can also get to and from the airport by bus service (Egged connector line to the Tel Aviv’s El Al terminal or privately owned Kavim and Metropoline services that connect passengers to Modi’in and Beersheva), by train and via cabs.
Because of its relatively small size (430,00 sq. ft.), and inter-terminal shuttles it is a convenient stop for travelers particularly after having experienced long-haul flights.
Ben Gurion airport is comprised of Terminal Three, its central hub, from which most flights depart and arrive, and Terminal One that is currently used by a few budget airlines.
Passengers arriving at Terminal One should be aware they may need to board a bus from the airplane to the terminal because those airlines usually save on the expense of the jetbridges.
The modern international Terminal Three is well marked and designed for easy navigation, so passengers will discover that they won’t get lost on the way to immigration and the retrieval of their luggage.As in most countries, there are separate lines for the locals (Israeli passport holders) and foreigners, so passengers should pay attention to the signs.
Passengers need to note that since the airport policy dictates that luggage cannot be checked in earlier than 3 hours before any scheduled departure, it doesn’t help to arrive at the airport earlier than usual.
All departing travelers need to go through a relatively lengthy security process before reaching the check-in counter which can make traveling with kids, particularly special needs a bit difficult. My best advice for parents is to bring some form of entertainment for the kids while they wait and make sure to pack your humor.
After passing the Israeli equivalent of the TSA and the passport control travelers are free to explore the airport. The airport features multiple stores that sell a plethora of duty-free toys, cosmetics, clothing, watches and electronics all arranged in a circular fashion around the fountain in the Rotunda, positioned on the way to the different gates.
Furthermore; there are several food venues where you can grab a coffee or a sandwich for a quick meal while enjoying the airport’s free wi-fi.Our personal favorite place is Shipudei Hatiqva where you can have your last authentic falafel and hummus before leaving the Holy Land.
The airport does not currently offer any outdoor areas, but it does provide plenty of air conditioned indoor seating which is a relief in the scorching and humid summer months.For antsy kids, there are two areas of fun that to play in, under adult supervision, of course, located at the very far end of two separate gates.
There are currently three working lounges in the airport; two lounges run by the Dan Hotel chain and one by El Al (solely for their clients) that service all airline passengers that qualify by either ticket class or a paid upgrade.
The Dan lounges: Arbel and Massada, named after famous mountains in Israel are relatively modest in size and centrally located in terminal three.The Dan lounges are designed to host 320 people at any given time, so they do get crowded rather quickly at various periods of the day, making it not only noisy but challenging to find seating.
The food selections offered are usually several salads and dips along with cut up vegetables, different cheeses, and cookies. The complimentary drink options are sodas, juices, coffees, wines, and beers.Apart from their helpful staff, the lounges have separate bathrooms which are clean; along with a place to freshen up and for you to plug in your electronics.
With that said, they are not geared for families or children who want to run around or families who are traveling with autism who are looking for a quiet area to calm down or regroup.
Autism Travel Tips
- Those unable to walk far may be glad to find that there are companies that can transport passengers from the aircraft to Passport Control via motor cart, providing the airline is contacted ahead of time and asked for the service. The service is recommended for families traveling with autism, especially after long haul flights–just ask for the airline’s wheelchair assistance service.
- Families who are traveling with special -needs members, should know that there is a special queue designated for them, so they don’t have to wait in the long lines that sometimes occur; especially in the summertime and Jewish Holidays.
- Pack electronic devices to entertain kids while waiting in the security lines as well as at the airline boarding gate in case of some unplanned delay.