Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has inaugurated the country’s new Ramon International Airport near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.
The new airport will serve as an emergency alternative to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.
Netanyahu was quoted by i24NEWS – AFP as saying: “Israel is opening up to the world. No longer an isolated corner, it’s becoming a hub in international terms.”
Ramon Airport is capable of managing up to two million passengers per annum and will have its capacity expanded so that it can to welcome 4.2 million travellers by 2030.
It is equipped with a 3,600m-long runway and has apron parking space that can accommodate up to nine large and wide-body aircraft. The airport also features freight-handling services.
The facility will initially handle only domestic flights operated by Israeli airlines Arkia and Israir. International airlines including Ryanair, Wizz Air, easyJet, SAS, Finnair and Ural will start offering services at a later date.
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A total of NIS1.7bn ($455m) has been invested in the development of the airport since construction started in 2013.
The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) changed the original plans for the Ramon project during the 2014 Gaza war.
“In an emergency, not only will Israel’s entire passenger air fleet be able to land and park there, but also additional aircraft,” the IAA told the publication.
A 26m-high, 4.5km-long ‘smart’ anti-missile fence has reportedly been installed in and around the airport to protect flights landing and taking off from the Ramon Airport as the airport lies close to the border with Jordan.
The new airport is named after Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon.