Lufthansa said it would fly from Frankfurt and Munich to the Ovda airport, north of the Red Sea resort town, twice a week, starting Oct. 28.
Lufthansa will offer two weekly flights from Frankfurt to Ovda and two from Munich using Airbus A320 aircraft with seating capacity for 168 passengers. The round-trip fare from Frankfurt to Ovda will start at 344 euros ($400). The fare from Munich round-trip will begin at 331 euros.
The Lufthansa group’s Israel director, Ofer Kish, said passengers will be offered the flexibility of, for example, flying from Germany to Eilat but returning to Germany from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport.
More than 175,000 foreign tourists flew into Ovda, a converted military airfield 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Eilat, in the first five months of 2018. That is double the number for all of 2017. Helping spur growth is a government grant of 60 euros ($70) per passenger for airlines starting routes to Eilat.
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The city will later be served by the new Ramon International Airport which is expected to open in early 2019. Since 2015, a number of airlines, mainly low-cost, have been operating direct flights to Ovda, led by Ireland-based Ryanair and WizzAir, the Hungarian carrier.
“The number of [international] flights to the city has increased from four weekly flights to more than 60 weekly flights,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
The Tourism Ministry has a budget of 30 million shekels ($8.25 million) a year to subsidize flights to Ovda.
“We are willing to pay more,” Levin said, adding the ministry is also in talks with British Airways. The airline declined to comment.
International tourist arrivals in Israel hit a record 3.6 million last year, pumping $5.5 billion into the economy.