“It was a decision taken in response to the Open Skies Agreement, which has really liberalized the market and allowed an opportunity for Ryanair to connect European cities to Eilat,” says Director of Route Development at Ryanair Neal McMahon.
In 2017, low-cost Irish airline Ryanair, which launched in July of 1985 with daily flights from Waterford to London Gatwick, became the first European airline to have carried 1 billion customers. It entered the Israeli market in 2015, initially offering three routes from Budapest, Kaunas and Krakow to Eilat to provide an alternative European sun destination. This year, Ryanair’s winter schedule offers 22 routes into Israel, including eight new offerings to Tel Aviv and ten new routes to Eilat.
“It was a decision taken in response to the Open Skies Agreement, which has really liberalized the market and allowed an opportunity for Ryanair to connect European cities to Eilat,” says Director of Route Development at Ryanair Neal McMahon. “In response to the strong performance of these routes, our positive relationship with the Israel Ministry of Tourism and the market potential of Israel, we proceeded with the launch of our flights to Tel Aviv in March 2017, all of which have exhibited solid bookings.”
The airline has a current network of 85 bases and flies from 200 airports, with a 240-seat Boeing 737 on order to facilitate further routes in Europe, Israel and North Africa. “We’re always interested in new routes, but any deal is dependent on an attractive pricing policy and fruitful cooperation with the partnering airports. Once an attractive airport deal is attained, Ryanair’s low fares facilitate the demand even if a destination is not well established,” says McMahon. Low-cost carriers are one of a few factors to drive the increase of international passengers arriving at Ovda Airport (turn to page 10 for figures).
Ryanair and the Israel Ministry of Tourism have established an ongoing relationship that has played its role in fueling the airline’s increased presence in the country. “We are working closely together on route development, marketing and communication as we continue to grow in Israel. We look forward to working closely with Minister of Tourism Yaniv Levin and his team, in order to drive Israel’s tourism and to further position Eilat as an alternative sunshine destination.”
Despite the increase in European routes into Israel, the United Kingdom, which accounts for the fifth largest incoming tourism segment to Israel, is not yet offered as a direct route with the airline. “Airports across Europe are increasingly adopting attractive pricing policies, which affect our route development strategy,” explains McMahon. “We do not exclude the possibility of launching a direct route from the UK to Israel, but at the moment we have seen more potential in connecting Israel to other European destinations, hence our enhanced winter schedule for the season ahead.”
With Ramon Airport in Eilat scheduled to open next year, McMahon foresees the potential for further growth in route offerings: “We’re confident that Ramon Airport will be able to accommodate more flights, allowing us to possibly further expand our operations.”