Israel offers desert airport Ramon as parking for foreign planes

JERUSALEM, March 30 (Reuters) - Israel is offering its second-biggest airport as a place for foreign carriers to park planes grounded by the coronavirus outbreak, an Israeli official said on Monday.

The number of planes in storage has doubled to more than 5,000 since the start of the year, according to date provider Cirium, with more expected as airlines cut back flights.

The Israel Airports Authority said it was in touch with several airlines about parking in Ramon Airport, in Israel’s southern desert, which could accommodate about 100 planes.

“The site offers a good climate for preserving the planes, as well as security,” authority spokesman Ofer Lefler said, adding that the price for parking would be determined in accordance with the eventual volume.

An eastern European airline had expressed interest in the offer, Lefler said, without providing further details.

Israel opened Ramon last year to encourage tourism to the nearby Red Sea port of Eilat and serve as a wartime alternative to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, the country’s main gateway.

With aviation volume slashed by the coronavirus crisis, there are now two daily domestic flights in and out of Ramon. (Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)