Israel’s Ramon airport opens for Palestinian travelers
It is not clear if Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will be included in the pilot program
A pilot program allowing Palestinian passengers to travel from Israel’s second busiest international airport received official approval with a first charter flight to Turkey set to leave Ramon later this month.
According to Amir Assi of Al-Amir Group, a company that makes connections between tourists from the Palestinian Authority and the rest of the Arab world, permission to advertise the first flight to Antalya on August 21 for Palestinian passengers only, mostly from the West Bank, was given following a meeting with Israeli administration officials on Monday.
“For the plan to succeed and (to ensure) the security concerns are addressed, we chose to allow travelers to carry with them the minimum,” Assi was quoted as saying by The Media Line.
He added that the program will initially focus on travelers from Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank because the distance is relatively shorter for them to the remote airport. However, it is not clear if Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will be included in the pilot program.
“Travelers will experience the same steps that passengers go through when they leave through Allenby Bridge,” Assi said, referring to the Allenby Bridge checkpoint connecting Jordan and the West Bank, which Palestinians cross after going through several Israeli security checkpoints.
“To speed up the process, travelers are asked to take with them small pieces of luggage, but they can come back with large suitcases,” Assi noted.
The Palestinians could only previously use Queen Alia Airport in Jordan, which required going through Israeli-run border crossings to Jordan operating under limited hours and often overcrowded.
“When a Palestinian leaves through Jordan, sometimes they have to spend a night before catching a flight; now they can fly directly to their destination,” Assi said, adding that the new plan will allow Palestinian travelers to save money and time.
Booking will be done through Palestinian tour operators in the West Bank. Tourists will meet in an appointed location before boarding charter buses, and will then be taken through an Israeli checkpoint for a security check before the ride to the airport.
Ramon International Airport is located in southern Israel near the coastal city of Eilat. It opened in January 2019, but has been struggling to attract airlines and passengers during the Covid pandemic.