The news means that the race is on to see if the airport can be ready in time to welcome holidaymakers arriving at Israel’s leading Red Sea resort town during this forthcoming winter season.
Eilat Airport, which will officially to be known as Eilat Assaf and Ramon International Airport, is the first civilian airport to be built in Israel since Israel’s founding in 1948.
Situated in the Timna Valley, 18km to the north of Eilat, the new airport will replace both the existing downtown Eilat J Hozman Airport and Ovda Airport, which is located around 60km north of Eilat.
The new gateway was supposed to open in April earlier this year, just in time for the lucrative spring season where Israelis flock en masse to Eilat during the Jewish Passover holiday. However, reports from government officials in Israel suggest that this date has been pushed back to somewhere between the late 2017 and early 2018.
According to these reports, the delay can be attributed in part to the number of changes made to the original plans for Eilat’s new airport.
The main change is the decision to extend its runway from 3.1 kilometers to 3.6 kilometres in order to allow to Boeing 747 jets and other wide-body aircraft to land at the airport.
The Israeli Government decided to make this change following the 2014 Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas, in which flights in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport (BGA), Israel’s international airport, were interrupted for several days when rocket fire from the Gaza Strip reached its vicinity.
The idea behind the change was that the new Eilat Airport could serve as a fully functioning alternative to BGA in times of future crises.
When the airport opens it promises to be a game-changer for tourism to Eilat and the south of Israel.
For many years, most tourists to Eilat have flown to BGA and then taken a further internal flight of around 45 minutes to Eilat J Hozman Airport. However, low-cost airliners such as Ryanair and Wizz Air have recently started to launch limited routes from European cities into Eilat.
These airlines have been offered financial incentives for Eilat routes from the Israeli Government on the back of the 2013 Open Skies agreement that largely deregulated flights between Israel and Europe.
Israel's tourism industry wants Eilat to become a magnet for European holidaymakers seeking an alternative all-year-around 'sun and Sea' destination.
The big hope is that more tour operators will offer new direct routes to the town when the airport does finally open.