From August, Arkia is launching flights from Ramon airport near Eilat to international destinations - Larnaca in Cyprus and Batumi, the Black Sea resort in Georgia. During the summer, there are only domestic flights arriving at the airport and these are so far the only international flights scheduled from Ramon next month.
While residents of Eilat and the surrounding Arava settlements are natural customers for such flights, it remains to be seen if Israelis will be prepared to travel such a long distance from the center of the country to board relatively short-haul flights - the flight to Larnaca is less than an hour.
There are some distinct advantages. There will be no long lines at the airport, passengers need only arrive two hours before the flight and there will surely be a better chance of baggage actually being put in the hold and arriving at the passenger’s destination. There will be free long-term parking otherwise passengers must pay NIS 300 in each direction for a domestic flight.
A foreign carrier is also expected to launch flights from Ramon to Turkey from next month.
Arkia will not qualify for the €60 subsidy per passenger from the Israeli government, which is designed to encourage winter tourism to Eilat. The payment is only on offer between October and April. Before the Covid pandemic several low-cost international carriers flew to Eilat in the winter and the Israel Airports Authority believes the airlines will resume the flights this winter. However, Arkia will benefit from the much lower airport fees at Ramon airport than Ben Gurion airport.
Arkia International CEO Oz Berlowitz said, "The idea is to create a convenient and fast solution for residents of Eilat and the area who want to fly abroad for a vacation, and while we all see in the media the crowding that there is at Ben Gurion airport and the long lines - those who live in the center can travel on vacation in peace quiet, without waiting, without lines, and free parking for the entire time they are abroad."
Berlowitz explains that the decision stems from a lack of landing and takeoff slots at Ben Gurion airport with no options for adding flights that have not been scheduled ahead of time by the airlines. He adds that there are few flights to Batumi from Ben Gurion airport. "This is a destination that is in demand and I believe that whoever wants to fly to Batumi won’t be deterred by the idea of traveling to Ramon."
Berlowitz says that fares from Ramon airport are competitive compared with Ben Gurion airport with fares to Larnaca starting from $360 return and to Batumi from $500 return.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 20 2022.
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