Most visitors arrive in Israel via Ben Gurion Airport. Major airlines tend to arrive at the newly built Terminal 3 while some budget airlines use Terminal 2. Ramon International Airport, in Eilat, is scheduled to open in 2018.
Israel’s main gateway is Ben Gurion International Airport, 50km northwest of Jerusalem and 18km southeast of central Tel Aviv. The airport handles about 20 million passengers a year. For up-to-the-minute details on arrivals and departures, go to the airport's English website.
Ramon International Airport, situated in the Arava Valley 18km north of Eilat, is scheduled to open sometime in 2018 as Israel's second international airport. It replaces Eilat's city-centre airport (no more turboprops swooping in low over North Beach), handling the low-cost flights that previously used Ovda (Uvda) airbase. Ramon International AIrport will also be used by flights to Ben Gurion that have to be diverted, eg because of the threat of missiles.
Israeli airport security is very tight so international travellers should check in at least three hours before their flight – when flying both to and from Israel.
Israel’s privatised flag carrier, El Al (www.elal.co.il), has direct flights to several dozen cities in Europe, as well as long-haul services to the US and Canada, South Africa, India, Thailand and China.
Known for having the tightest security in the business, El Al's aircraft – like those of other Israeli airlines – are reportedly equipped with technology to foil heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles.
The only Middle Eastern cities with direct air links to Tel Aviv are Amman, served by Royal Jordanian (www.rj.com); Cairo, served by Air Sinai (a low-profile but astonishingly expensive subsidiary of Egyptair); and Istanbul, served by Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com).
There is no departure tax when leaving Israel by air, only at land crossings with Egypt and Jordan.