The decline in domestic passenger volume at Eilat’s new Ilan and Asaf Ramon Airport continued in October, with the largest month-to-month drop in passenger numbers on flights to and from the Tel Aviv area and Haifa since the airport north of the southern Israeli city opened at the end of March.
When the airport opened, there was concern that domestic passengers who had been used to being deposited in the middle of Eilat, where the old airport was located, would be less likely to fly to the Red Sea resort if they had to make the journey from and to an airport several miles away.
In another blow, the Sde Dov airport in northern Tel Aviv was permanently closed in July, requiring passengers from Tel Aviv flying to Eilat to use Ben-Gurion International Airport, 23 kilometers (around 14 miles) outside of the city.
October’s domestic passenger numbers to Ramon Airport were 33% below comparable figures at the old Eilat airport — 84,600 passengers, compared to 126,800 in October 2018.
The month-on-month decline is particularly surprising because most of the High Holy Days, when many Israelis visit Eilat, was in October this year, while last year the holidays were mostly in September. That should have boosted the passenger numbers this year.
“That’s how it will be all the time,” said an Eilat tourism industry source who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
“More and more people will stop flying, the number of flights to Eilat will gradually drop and the airport will remain empty,” he said.
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Offsetting the decline in domestic passenger traffic is the beginning of the winter season of direct flights to Eilat from Europe. This will be the first full winter season in which the international flights will be operating in and out of Ramon Airport.
Ryanair, Wizz Air, Lufthansa and other carriers are operating discount flights to the Red Sea resort, which should boost the passenger traffic at the airport.