Military airfield lands as alternative to banned Ben Gurion

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Foreign airlines banned from using Ben Gurion Airport will be able to use a military airfield in southern Israel as an alternative, Israel’s transportation minister said.

The opening of Ovda Airport to increased commercial traffic is aimed at encouraging the resumption of flights to Israel, Yisrael Katz said Wednesday in his announcement.

Ovda, which is nearly 40 miles north of Eilat, now serves many commercial flights to the resort city.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority prohibited all U.S. airlines from flying to Israel for at least 24 hours after a rocket destroyed a house in Yehud, a city near Ben Gurion. That night, the European Aviation Safety Agency night canceled all flights to and from Europe for 36 hours.

The FAA on Wednesday extended the ban another 24 hours.

Some 160 flights in and out of Ben Gurion were canceled on Tuesday night and Wednesday, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

Passengers that arrive at Ovda would take buses to the center of Israel, Haaretz  reported. No airline that flies into Ben Gurion Airport has said it will use Ovda.

U.S. Airways and United will restart flights to Israel on Thursday, the Times of Israel reported, citing Israeli air officials. Germany’s Lufthansa suspended flights for another 24 hours, according to reports.

Among the European airlines that have continued to fly to Israel are British Airways, Azerbaijan Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Russia Airlines, Yakutia Airlines, Bluebird Airways and Siberia Airlines, according to Haaretz.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Ben Gurion on Wednesday morning aboard a military plane. Earlier in the day, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived aboard an El Al flight.

El Al has continued to fly in and out of Ben Gurion. Israel’s national airline has sent planes to pick up stranded passengers from other airlines.

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