"Closing Sde Dov Airport will cause a 30% drop in the number of flights to Eilat, and change the company's structure," Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd. CEO Uri Sirkis said today at an international aviation conference sponsored by the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies and the Israel Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) currently taking place in Herzliya.
According to Sirkis, the expected closure of Sde Dov airport in June 2015 and the construction of housing units on the site will harm not only tourist and business traffic on the Tel Aviv-Eilat route, but also medical traffic. "It will be more difficult for people in outlying areas to come from Ben Gurion Airport to central Tel Aviv for treatment than from Sde Dov," he argued.
Sirkis added that the expected closure would also leave its mark on everyone's wallet. "An airline seat will cost more if we have to move our activity from Sde Dov to Ben Gurion Airport. Arkia Airlines Ltd. and Israir will switch to airliners with more seats, and fly less frequently to Eilat than at present."
Sirkis also attacked the expected timing of the closure, saying, "I'm astonished at ICAA's decision to move us out of Sde Dov airport in June. The season in Eilat starts in June. If they have to close it down, why do it in June? Why not in November? This will have a negative impact on hotels in Eilat, which are any case suffering from low occupancy rates."
Commenting on the plan to close another airport, this time in Herzliya, Israeli Association of General Aviation chairman Shay Popper said, "The airport in Herzliya has 60,000 landings and takeoffs a year. Dozens of families make their living directly from the airport, and many more indirectly. 80% of the civilian pilots who were not in the air force were trained in Herzliya. Most maintenance of all the airplanes in Israel, including those used in firefighting, takes place in Herzliya. Closing the airport in Herzliya without any substitute or continuity is a deathblow. Civil aviation won't exist in Israel without the airport in Herzliya."
Concerning the airport in Ein Shemer proposed as a substitute for the one in Herzliya, Popper said, "I hope they don't decide to close the Herzliya airport before there is a working airport. It's important to realize the catastrophe that's happening. Operation of the Herzliya airport should be extended. We've got Herzl Bodinger here, who headed the committee. You only have to listen. It's all known. Relief for the housing situation shouldn't come at the expense of aviation."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 25, 2014
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