Here is a trip report about 2 domestic flights in Israel, rare to find such here.
350 words about Eilat and domestic aviation in Israel:
Eilat is the southernmost city in Israel, located on the red sea beach, 300km south of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The area where Eilat is located was nothing but empty desert in 1949, when IDF troops concurred to the area in the last operation of the independence war. Since there was no land connection to the rest of Israel, the first thing that was built there was a runway, and in Eilat's (the city that was built in the area) first years even things like fuel and vegetables had to be flown to the city. As the years went by, Eilat grew and developed to 60,000 residents city, in addition to 12,000 hotel rooms, with many tourists enjoying the Red sea beaches, 360 sunny days a year so as tax free shopping. And the runway? remained at the same place, which is today right at the city center. That means that the beach is great spotting location but also – the terminal is located between the airside and Eilat's main road, therefore it's unexpendable. All planes to move the airport out of the city remained on the paper (even though most international traffic was moved to Ovda airport VDA in 1985).
Photo © Elad Eckstein
On the photo you can see how the runway is located right in the middle of the city (Aqaba, Jordan, in the background).
Because airlink to central Israel was vital, an airline was crated for that target, named Arkia in 1950. Arkia had monopoly over Eilat flights till 1996, when Israir joined the market to create competition. To be honest, it's more duopoly then competition: price different between the 2 airlines is usually just a few Shekels, while fares relatively high. When El Al announced it's intention to fly to ETH, Arkia, feeling threatened, lunched new low cost domestic flights (usually the flights in crappy hours) named "Arkia Express" for 79-119 NIS instead of the regular rates of 235-360 NIS (3.7 NIS = 1 USD). The final answer whether LY will join the domestic market will be given soon by the high court of justice.
Photo © Natan Unfanger
Photo © Michael Sender
To the left – beach view after takeoff from RWY 21. To the right - view of the parking area and the terminal.
Myself and 2 of my best friends use the annual gay parade in Eilat as an excuse to spend a weekend in the city. On the return leg, there were 2 low cost flights: one on Saturday at 14:00, the other on Sunday at 07:20. We choose the Sunday flight to have one more night in Eilat, nethertheless, it's early enough not to miss classes on Sunday (the weekend in Israel is fri-sat not sat-sun). Southbound, we all planned to go on Thursday by bus (the only other express flight was way too early), as my friends did.
One month prior to that weekend, I was invited to a wedding of a good friend of mien, on Friday the 14th at noon, and there was no way I was going to miss her wedding; thus I decided to miss one night in Eilat, and to take a flight southbound after the wedding. I took the latest flight on Friday – the 16:30 Israir flight from Dov Hoz airport, there are no later flights since ETH is closed for most of the Jewish Shabbat.
The Arkia northbound flight was booked way ahead, in February, because on express flight the sooner you book the lower the price is. Booking itself was done on Arkia's friendly website. No seat choosing option was available.
The Israir southbound flight was booked 3 weeks prior to takeoff, on the phone, since from some reason I had problem booking it online. No seat choosing option was available here either.
Weather forecast for the 14th: + 39C sunny in Eilat. Warm enough for mid May?
I drove right from the wedding (מזל טוב אפרת וטל-שחר!), to Tel Aviv Dov Hoz airport (SDV), arrived at 15:40.
Tel Aviv Dov Hoz Airport, SDV, known in Hebrew as Sde Dov, is named after Dov Hoz, a pioneer of aviation in Israel and one of the founders of the "Hagana", the organization that later on became the IDF. Built in 1938 and located in the northwest of Tel Aviv, It is using for domestic flights and it used to be an IAF base. The ministry of transportation made a decision to close the airfield till 2014, and for that purpose the IAF base was evacuated till 2008; the light aviation is due to move to Herzelia airfield (LLHZ) which is 9 km away and the commercial domestic aviation is due to move to Ben Gurion airport (TLV) which is 15km away. The reason for closing is that SDV is surrounded by residential neighborhoods; jets can't serve the airport on regular basis due to noise restrictions but first and foremost – the land where SDV is located is very expensive.
Check in hall:
I passed security questioning in less then 1 minute, then checked in for the last flight of the day. I asked for a window seat in the front, and I was told that only 1D is an available window seat in the front, which is rearwards seat. I said it is fine (never sat rearwards on airplane, nice to try something different).
FIDS – notice that my flight is the last of the day:
Photos of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat behind the check in counters:
Light aviation area:
Arkia Ads at the airport:
2 Private jets and out of service arkia Dash 7:
Inside the bus:
Boarding (via the rare stairs):
Arkia ATR behind (4X-AVW):
Tail - Israir is Israel's 3rd largest airline, currently fly 3 ATR-42s and 2 A320s (1 more on the way) on domestic destinations in Israel (SDV, TLV, ETH & HFA), so as to Europe (MXP, FCO, VRN, NCE, SXF, DME, BSL):
Not only no one told me that taking picturs is not allowed, but an Israir emplyee standing next to the plane asked me if I want him to take my picture with the plane.
I was greeted by the FA and got to my seat upfront.
Airplane: ATR 42-320 4X-ATM (ex Continental Express, built 1987).
Route: Tel Aviv Dov Hoz SDV -> Eilat J. Hozman ETH (Both in Israel).
Date: Friday, May 14th, 2010.
Runways: 03 -> 03
Gates: 1 -> (walk)
Weels off: 16:33
Full stop: 17:22
Airborn time: 47 minutes.
Gate to Gate time: 52 minutes (Scheduled 1:00)
Taxi was done pretty fast, and we took off northbound from RWY 03. SDV control tower:
Tel Aviv after takeoff:
Cabin view – well maintained, very good for 23 years old plane (Israir is planning to replace the current ATR fleet in newer ATR72s):
Inflight magazine, safety card & sick bag:
Flight path – northbound departure, gaining altitude over the sea, then heading east, turning south over Petach Tikva, then south above Lod, Beit Shemsh, Beer Sheva, Mitzpe Ramon, descending and turning north, then landing northbound on RWY 03:
Flight views - visibility not too good today, and also the sun was on my direction. Herzelia:
Heading east over the sea:
Crossing the coast line:
Tel Aviv area:
We flew right over Ben Gurion Airport:
Bad view, but I swear its Beer Sheva under us, Israel’s 7th largest city and the largest city in the Negev desert:
The Red sea:
Crossing Eilat beach:
Eilat airport is small, and getting from the plane to the terminal and visversa is done by foot. Since the distance is no more then 50 meters, and there is practically no rain in Eilat – that's not a problem.
Last view of my plane – probably my last Israir ATR42 flight:
Arkia ATR 72-500 (4X-AVU, I flew this one in 2008):
Flags of Israel and of Israel Airports Authority:
Baggage claim hall:
After exiting the terminal, a bus from the hotel company where I stayed during the weekend was waiting, and got me to my hotel where my friends already spent the night in.
Some shots from Eilat – lagoon area at night:
Hilton Queen of Sheba hotel:
King Solomon hotel:
View to the north-west of the city from the Royal Beach hotel 16th floor. Can you spot the runway?
View to the north-east from the same location:
Royal Garden hotel:
Inside the Royal Beach hotel:
Arkia ATR land:
Advertisement in Eilat for Arkia's new destination – Aqaba, Jordan ($300 for 3 nights in **** hotel including flights from Haifa):
View of the airport from the beach – 6H ATR & A320, IZ ATR:
The local Jumbo arrived – Arkia B757-300, the largest plane operating from this airport:
Streets decorated in the gay community flags for the weekend:
Entrance to my hotel:
At the evening, it was very quite…
But the next afternoon was a bit diffenet:
Our room at the end of the weekend:
After fantastic, but way too short, weekend in Eilat, it was time to head back north.
We got up at 06:00, and got to the airport at 06:40. External view of the terminal:
We passed security in seconds, and in check in I asked for a seat on the left side of the plane. I was asked if row 29 out of 31 is fine, I answered it's exellent. Check in hall:
After check in, we bought breakfast (I got a tuna sandwich, coffee and newspaper for 32 NIS).
FIDS (destinations – SDV, TLV & HFA only, airlines – IZ & 6H only):
After checking in, we went one level down, to the gates waiting area:
Airplanes models in that hall:
Israir B767-300 model, today its only collectors item:
Boarding was done by foot, as usuall in Eilat. View to the Terminal:
Our ride for today – Embraer E195, the first and only EMB jet in Israel. It was suppose to be Universal Airlines jet, part of Air Europa (Spain), but the airline never came to life, then Arkia used the opportunity to buy a new jet in reduced price. The white color scheme is not arkia's one - from some reason it wasn't painted to IZ's regular colors:
Arkia Israeli Airlines, known until 1980 as Arkia Inland Airlines, was the airline created for domestic aviation in Israel in 1949 and it is the second largest airline in Israel. Privatized in 1980, it is now still flying dometic in Israel so as to Europe with 2 B757-300s, 1 E195 & 5 ATR 72-500. Arkia logo under the national flag:
Boarding via L1:
Airline: Arkia Israeli Airlines
Airplane: Embraer E195 4X-EMA (Built 2008)
Route: Eilat J. Hozman ETH -> Tel Aviv Ben Gurion TLV (Both in Israel).
Date: Sunday, May 16th, 2010.
Runways: 03 -> 12
Gates: 2 -> (bus)
Weels off: 07:24
Full stop: 08:06
Airborn time: 39 minutes.
Gate to Gate time: 43 minutes (Scheduled 0:40)
My first impression was "wow!". The plane was brand new, smelled like one (it is serving the airline 18 months now) but the real surprise was the business-like seats and legroom which is better then arkia's other planes. My seat:
Very short taxi (1 minute, another small airport advantage), and northbound takeoff from RWY 03. Terminal view:
Airborne over Kibbutz Eilot:
The “No smoking” is still in Spanish and English:
Inflight magazine & safety card:
Fleet and destinations from Arkia’s magazine:
Flight path: Northbound over the Arava and the Dead sea, then west over Jericho, flying over northern Jerusalem, Yahud and Herzelia, crossing the Mediterranean, 180 left turn over the sea, then re-crossing the beach and landing on RWY 12:
David river, Ein Gedi and Dead sea beach:
The Dead sea, the lowest place in the world (-417 meters):
Jerusalem old city. No metter who your guy is, King David, Jesus or Muhammad, they were all down there:
My University campus – mt. Scoups, part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:
My neighborhood (Hagiva Hatzarfatit):
Givat Zeev (north of Jerusalem):
Heading to Ben Gurion airport and flying north of it, towards the sea:
Tel Aviv area:
North part of Kiryat Ono, my home city till 2007:
Heading toward the sea:
Sunday morning is the worst rush hour of the week…Here is a look over Geha junction:
Ramat Gan Stadium:
Dov Hoz airport: