(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Business boomed for Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport in 2016, with 17,387,971 passengers making their way through the airport on flights last year—an increase of 11 percent, or 1.6 million passengers, from 2015.
At the same time, Eilat's Ovda Airport reported a 97.8-percent increase in passengers in 2016, after the airport was exempted from landing fees while construction continues on Israel’s new Ramon Airport, scheduled to open in 2017.
Since Israel signed the Open Skies agreement with the European Union in 2012, which has brought more flights to and from European countries at reduced prices, traffic at Ben Gurion Airport has increased by around 50 percent. Passengers to and from six countries have led the growth at Ben Gurion: Turkey with 1.6 million passengers, on mostly connecting flights; the U.S. with 1.45 million passengers; Germany with 1.23 million passengers; Italy with 1.5 million passengers; and Russia and France, each with 1 million passengers.
"In the fifth year of the Open Skies policy with the European Union, the skies should open completely," Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said. "Despite all the predictions, the Israeli citizen has benefited [from the agreement], as have the Israeli airlines."