Around 150 passengers were given a champagne welcome when they flew into Eilat City airport on the inaugural Isrotel Sun Express flight from Luton on Sunday night.
The flight – the first of a programme running through the winter – was arranged by the UK-owned hotel chain to provide direct flights between London and the Red Sea Resort.
Rafi Sadeh, managing director of Isrotel said they had decided to provide the charter flights for those booking packages at their hotels to “keep the UK market alive”.
“The UK market is important for us, and we could see that, without direct flights, many people who would otherwise have come to Eilat were choosing other winter-sun destinations.
“We hope, if we can continue through the rough time, when there is a recession, and show there is demand, other airlines and operators will decide to organise charters,” added Mr Sadeh.
Mark and Carla, from North London, who were travelling to Eilat with their two-year-old son Miles, said they were returning to Eilat having not visited since 2007. “We used to go to Eilat every year, but we didn’t go last year because there were no direct flights, and it was too difficult, particularly with a young baby. The direct flight made us decide to come back.”
Another young couple, Simon and Melanie, from Radlett, who were on the flight with their three daughters – one of 10 and twins aged 11 – said they “wouldn’t have come” without the availability of direct flight.
“It was a big selling point for us, especially into Eilat City. We normally go to Florida for Christmas, but we decided to come here instead. We are staying a week and going back for Limmud.”