Ryanair is adding 15 new routes between Europe and Israel to cater for Europeans seeking a milder climate in the winter, the Irish low-cost carrier said Wednesday.
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Europe’s largest airline entered the Israeli market in late 2015 with seasonal flights between October and March from Budapest, Bratislava, Krakow in Poland and Kaunas in Lithuania to Ovda Airport, which is north of the Red Sea resort Eilat.
Ryanair said these routes, which came after Israel signed an Open Skies agreement with the European Union in 2012, were “performing well.” The deal has led to a 30% increase in flights to Tel Aviv the past three years.
Starting in October, Ryanair will add twice weekly flights to Ovda Airport near Eilat from Baden-Baden, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Milan and Polish cities Warsaw, Gdansk and Poznan.
It will also add seven new routes to Ben-Gurion International Airport from Baden-Baden, Gdansk, Milan, Poznan, Krakow and Wroclaw in Poland, and Paphos in Cyprus.
Tickets will cost 40-100 euros per leg. This does not include luggage, food or the option of choosing seats.
David O’Brien, Ryanair’s chief commercial officer, said the airline was working with Israel’s Tourism Ministry to “establish Eilat as a viable alternative to competing sunshine destinations in Europe.” Israel’s airports could double their passenger traffic to 30 million within five years, he stated.
The Tourism Ministry has been offering airlines a 45-euro subsidy for every tourist flying in through Ovda, in an attempt to boost Eilat.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said the significant expansion of Ryanair should cut the cost of fares to and from Israel, while “expressing great confidence in Israeli tourism.”
Ryanair’s massive operations planned for Ovda, and later Timna, are likely to significantly increase demand for flights within Israel, and push down the cost of these flights as well.
Last week Transportation Minister Haim Katz announced that he would be considering letting foreign airlines fly the route between Ben-Gurion and Eilat.
Eshet Tours CEO Ephraim Kramer called the announcement a “revolution” that would help put Israel on par with European nations. Some 30% of flights through European airports are on low-cost airlines, compared to 12% in Israel, he said.
To date, Israeli airlines Israir and Arkia have been handling European competition well, and expanded operations over the past year.