Katz: Let Foreign Airlines Fly Between Ben Gurion and Eilat

A passenger waiting by his luggage in the departure hall at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)

In an aviation world of “hubs” and “spokes,” Ben Gurion Airport is considered neither; it is instead a “terminus” destination for international carriers, meaning that there are no flights for passengers to connect to. Transport Minister Yisrael Katz would like to change that – and turn TLV into a hub for onward flights to Eilat for foreign carriers.

To do that, those carriers would be provided with permits to run flights between Tel Aviv and Eilat, Katz told reporters at a press conference. The granting of such permits would help make flights to and from Europe cheaper, as foreign airlines would be able to sell vacations to Eilat, thus increasing the number of flights available both to and from Europe and Eilat.

“The recent decision of El Al to stop flying to Eilat has harmed tourism overall,” Katz said. “Turning Ben Gurion Airport or the new Ramon Airport in Eilat into a hub could help correct that situation.” Also on the agenda is an expansion of flights to Haifa, including allowing international flights to use the airport. Katz said that he had spoken to several carriers who had expressed interest in flying to Haifa.

The country’s “Open Skies” policy, in which international competition has been encouraged, is now five years old, said Katz, and as opposed to the dark predictions when it was first instituted, Israeli airlines have learned to compete in the new environment – for the benefit of themselves and Israelis, said Katz. “Open Skies has been one of Israel’s biggest consumer revolutions, and I will ensure that it will continue,” Katz added.