West Bank Palestinians will now be able to fly internationally out of Israel's southern airport, Israel Airports Authority announced on Tuesday, rather than traveling to the airport in Jordan.
An Israeli security official said Palestinians would board shuttles from the West Bank, undergo a security screening at an Israeli crossing and then go through the Ramon airport like any other traveler. The official said the initial phase is a pilot project but could be expanded to additional locations if it is successful.
Those in the West Bank wishing to fly abroad must currently travel to Jordan’s capital Amman, through a crowded Israeli border crossing. The crossing isn’t open 24 hours a day, forcing many travelers to pay to stay in a hotel ahead of their flight. There are also travel costs and crossing fees that make the journey an added financial burden.
Three international airlines requested the Airports Authority to add new destinations from Ramon airport – to Turkey and Poland. The flights to Istanbul and Antalya will be operated by Pegasus and another Turkish airline, AtlasGlobal. According to the plan, two flights will depart weekly from Ramon on an Airbus A321 aircraft, which can carry 22 passengers. In October 2022, Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines will fly four times a week to Turkey.
The Polish charter airline Enter Air announced on Tuesday that from August 15, it will operate two weekly flights from Ramon to Warsaw and Katowice.
Ramon is Israel’s secondary airport, after Ben-Gurion International Airport. It is smaller, has fewer flights and destinations and is less busy. It lies next to the resort city of Eilat.
Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza do not have their own airport and must apply for a hard-to-obtain airport permit to use Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Such permits are only approved, if at all, shortly before takeoff.
Security procedures for this trial to Ramon airport will be coordinated by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Shin Bet security service and the police. Israeli citizens living in the West Bank will also be able to participate in this trial plan, which provides certain advantages including shorter lines and free parking.
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In July, Arkia Airlines announced that for the first time it would operate weekly flights from Ramon Airport to Larnaca, and two weekly flights to Batumi, Georgia.
There are no immediate plans to allow Palestinians from Gaza to use the airport.