Eilat Airport (Hebrew: שְׂדֵה הַתְּעוּפָה אֵילַת, Namal HaTe'ufa Eilat; Arabic: مطار إيلات), also known as J. Hozman Airport (IATA: ETH, ICAO: LLET), is an Israeli airport located in the city of Eilat, and named for Arkia Airlines founder Yakov Hozman (Jacob Housman). Eilat Airport is located in the central area of the city, next to Route 90 (The Arava Road). It mostly handles domestic flights to Tel Aviv and Haifa with international flights operating instead to Uvda International Airport, but a few international flights on aircraft that can handle the relatively short runway use Eilat as well.
The airport is expected to cease civilian operations by 2018 when Eilat's new international airport, Ramon Airport, should become operational.
Eilat Airport was established in 1949 by the Israel Air Force, following the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. During its early years, the airport aimed to establish a comprehensive set of connections to towns across the country, most notably with Tel Aviv and Haifa. Consequently, a regular route from Eilat to Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) was started. Soon after, a route to Haifa Airport became operational. In December 1950, following their establishment, Arkia Israel Airlines became the largest domestic operator at Eilat Airport, taking the position of the former companies Eilata and Aviron. To this day, they retain this position. Later, in 1964 the runway was expanded to 1500 m, and a passenger terminal was built. Five years later, the runway was further expanded increasing the length to 1900 m. In 1975, Eilat Airport started to attract Scandinavian airlines. The first international flight arrival to Eilat, of the Danish airline, Sterling Airlines landed in this year. Since then, many international routes have been established directly linking Eilat with Europe, however, the airport is still unable to handle landings of large aircraft which have to fly to Uvda International Airport.
In the 1994 Peace Agreement between Israel and Jordan it was decided that operations were supposed to be transferred from Eilat Airport to Aqaba Airport. The original plan was to rename Aqaba Airport as Aqaba-Eilat Peace International Airport. The agreement was never followed, however, and an agreement between the two countries in March 1997, stipulated that domestic flights would continue to use Eilat Airport, whilst no further action to move international flights took place.
In August 2005, a Katyusha rocket fired from Jordan landed near a taxi traveling just 15 yards (14 m) from the airport perimeter fence. On August 8, 2013, the Israeli Military instructed the airport to cancel all landings and departures after a security assessment. Militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula had fired rockets towards the city in recent years, but it was not immediately clear if that was the reason for the closure.
Today, Eilat Airport sustains peak loads concentrated into Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On Thursdays and Sundays, flights are handled in a period of a few hours in the mornings and on Saturdays only the evening hours are used. Often there are days when 10,000 passengers on 120 flights are channelled through the 2,800 m2 terminal, counting as one of the highest peak loads worldwide in this category.
International passenger traffic decreased from magnitude of 20,000 in a year in late 2000s to 5,000 in a year in 2010s.
Although the airport is capable of handling Boeing 767 aircraft, for large numbers of these aircraft, significant investment would be needed. Consequently, the largest aircraft regularly flying to the airport are Boeing 757. The main problem at the airport is the lack of ramp space, with just two parking positions for large aircraft. As a result, El Al operates regular shuttle flights to Ben Gurion International Airport carrying passengers from around the world on 757s and 737s.
The small size of the airport is perhaps best illustrated with the fact that a Boeing 757 cannot taxi past another aircraft to parking positions. As a result, controllers are responsible not only for ensuring that valuable space is utilised, but also ensuring that other aircraft are kept circling until larger aircraft are parked. Despite these limitations, the airport successfully handles ten to twenty times more traffic than airports of a comparable size. It is for this reason that plans to relocate the airport are so important in the short-term scale. In 2006, a NIS 5.5 million renovation programme of Eilat Airport's terminal and runway was undertaken, designed to sustain the airport until it is replaced in the near future.
Since the beginning of the 1990s the authorities in Eilat have considered relocating the airport, approximately 20 km north of Eilat, to the Ora Well area near Be'er Ora. There were numerous reasons behind this idea. Primarily, the fact that safety would be improved as in its current location, there is the chance of aircraft crashing into buildings in the city. Other reasons were the pure value of the land which the airport occupies, and the fact that the airport is dividing the city of Eilat into two parts with the hotels and tourist areas on one side, and the residential buildings on the other.
On 24 July 2011 the Israeli cabinet approved the construction of a new airport to be built in Timna, 18 km (11 mi) north of Eilat, next to Be'er Ora. It will have a 3,600 m (11,800 ft) runway, longer than the runway in Eilat, which will allow large aircraft to land. The airport is due to open in 2017 and will be named in memory of the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon (who died in 2003) and his son Assaf Ramon (who died in 2009 when his F-16 fighter jet crashed over the West Bank).