The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) has announced that Ramon Airport near the Red Sea is scheduled to open later this month.

Ramon Airport was built with an investment of $500m and will initially start operations on 22 January with domestic flights, before extending to international operations in March.

The facility is the country’s newest international airport.

Initially, the Arkia and Israir carriers will operate the domestic flights.

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IAA spokeswoman Liza Dvir told Reuters that the opening of the airstrip took slightly longer than planned due to the need to extend parking spaces for 60 aircraft. Minor delays were also caused by the need to increase the runway length to 3.6km so that larger aircraft can land at the site.

“Ramon Airport will intitally be able to accommodate more than two million passengers per annum, with plans to expand the capacity to 4.5 million by 2030.”

Dvir told the news agency that ‘Israel didn’t have a second international airport’, referring to the 2014 conflict when militants targeted Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport.

Israel is expecting the new airport to strengthen tourism to Eilat.

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Initially, Ramon Airport will be able to accommodate more than two million passengers per annum, with plans to expand the capacity to 4.5 million by 2030.

The new airport will replace Ovda airport and be able to serve as an alternative to Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv during emergencies.

Ramon Airport has been named in memory of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut who died when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry in 2003.

Located 18km north of Eilat, the airport has a longer runway than the one in Eilat.