There is a sense of deja vu over the repeated delays to the opening of Eilat's new Ramon airport. It is reminiscent of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast rail link, which is yet to become fully operational despite the promises of Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz.
At a meeting of the Knesset Interior Ministry yesterday rescue and emergency services heads expressed concerns over safety at Ramon Airport, just as they had before the aborted opening of the Jerusalem rail link in March.
Magen David Adom ambulance services head of operations Ronen Bashari. "Today it takes us two minutes to get to the existing Eilat airport. They have now built an airport 20 minutes from the city, so it will take 40 minutes to get there and back to the hospital with the patient, without counting the time it takes to get them into the ambulance. If there are additional people requiring treatment, the ambulances would have to return for them, if there are even ambulances free. The airport has no clinic."
The fire services reported a similar situation. Eilat region fire service commander Yehuda Kassnatini said, "The fire service provides a response to Eilat's residents and 50 hotels but it's impossible to divide it up and transfer some of the engines to the airport. The Ministry of Finance is not prepared to set up a separate fire station at the airport.
As the budgetary quibbling continues, there is no sign that the airport will open during Eilat's current winter season. In 2017, Katz promised that the airport would open in 2018, while in July, when a symbolic first plane landed at the new airport, Katz promised it would open during Eilat's winter season, which ends in March 2019.
The delays are costing Israel's tourist industry dear. 110,000 overseas tourists stayed in Eilat last winter, and the Ministry of Tourism's forecast for this winter is 180,000. But that forecast was based on Ramon airport being open. Meanwhile many major airlines such as easyJet have indicated a willingness to fly to Eilat but have said they are waiting until Ramon Airport is opened.
At the moment smaller aircraft land at Eilat Airport in the city center while larger international carriers fly into Ovda, 60 kilometers north of Eilat. Ramon airport is 18 kilometers north of Eilat.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 27, 2018
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