Instead of Closing, Tel Aviv Airport Goes International

YERUSHALAYIM -
israel
View of Sdeh Dov Airport outside Tel Aviv. (Moshe Shai/Flash90, File)

According to a law passed several years ago, Tel Aviv’s Sdeh Dov Airport is set to close down in 2019 – but that hasn’t stopped Cypriot carrier Tus Air from using it as the airport for its flights to and from Cyprus. Currently, Tus flies from Ben Gurion Airport on its route to and from Larnaca, but the company last week announced that it was switching to Sdeh Dov.

The move makes Tus the first international carrier to use Sdeh Dov as its Israeli base. Until now, the airport was used strictly by Israeli carriers to fly to and from Eilat. Tus, a low-cost carrier, will fly its scheduled flights to and from Sdeh Dov and Larnaca starting at 85 euros for a flight in each direction. The company said that it planned to fly some of its other routes to and from Sdeh Dov, as well, including flights to and from Paphos and other destinations in Greece.

At a recent meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, MK Betzalel Smotrich railed against the closure of the airport, saying that it would be “the end of the Open Skies policy” of the Transportation Ministry that has brought the prices of air travel down. “Ben Gurion Airport cannot absorb the flights that currently use Sdeh Dov. There is a limit to the number of flights the airport can handle. This is what all professionals who are familiar with the situation tell us. The only party that is really pushing the closure is the Finance Ministry, which is looking forward to the income from real estate and other taxes. We plan to propose a law that will reflect the concerns of many Israelis and professionals, who take a wider view of the situation beyond the immediate payoff,” he said.

Sdeh Dov, which takes up hundreds of dunams of some of the most valuable land in Tel Aviv, was slated for closure already in 2017, after the Knesset voted in 2015 to authorize the closure. The airport’s civilian flight runways are used strictly for domestic flights, mostly to and from Eilat. The flights are to be moved to Ben Gurion Airport, while the land that currently constitutes the airport will be developed for homes and shopping. The military section of the airport was set to continue operating until 2019. In 2017, a new Knesset law extended civilian operations at the airport until 2019 as well.