Eilat will have Israel’s second international airport, set to open in four months’ time, as Ben Gurion Airport begins plans for expansion.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The new Ilan and Assaf Ramon Airport near Eilat is almost complete, with a target opening date of April 2018. It has been designed to handle the growing number of low-cost flights to Israel, especially for the myriads flying from abroad during the freezing winter months to take advantage of the sun and beaches in the country’s southern-most city. Ultimately, the airfield will serve an expected 4.25 million internal and external tourists annually.
The new airport is designed to replace the two airports that currently service the city: the small one currently located in the center of Eilat that serves domestic flights from Tel Aviv and Haifa, and the Ovda military airfield 65 kilometers away that is used for international flights.
The new set-up will also enable the city to grow and develop. According to the plan, new hotels with 2,070 rooms and 1,000 apartments will be built on a 700-dunam (175-acre) site.
In an interview with Globes, Amir Mann, who has headed the design team for the past six years and coordinated the project, remarked on the difficulties this situation has caused until now. “Operating two airports is a disaster,” he said. “Workers are moved from Eilat and back to the airport. It’s crazy and uneconomical.”
Located in the center of Nahal Nimra, the new airport will be a much more manageable ten kilometers north of the city. Its design is also revolutionary for Israel, as the source of inspiration was the desert that surrounds Eilat. According to Asaf Mann, a partner in the conceptual design, “The building provides its own shade, like a desert rock designed by natural forces.”
Built at a cost of NIS 1.6 billion, Amir Mann put the number in perspective. “An airport is really one very big event. If I look at it, I’m stunned. I’m very proud. This is a national project, and we’re finishing it within the budget.”
Meanwhile, Globes reports that in view of the expected growth in passenger and air-freight traffic, Ben Gurion Airport is going to be extended to include another runway and cargo facility. This is due to current passenger traffic (inbound and outbound flights) being expected to exceed 20 million, while Israel’s Airport Authority predicts that it will reach 30 million passengers annually in the next decade.
The new cargo area is necessary because of the exponential increase in the number of packages coming to Israel via air, mostly due to internet shopping – ten million in December alone. Once air freight has its own facility, passenger capacity can be increased in Ben Gurion’s original terminal. Now serving three million passengers on internal and low-cost flights, it is expected to double to six million annual passengers in the same period of time.
The extension will be built in stages, with an expected cost of NIS 4 billion.