Nov 18, 2018

El Al chooses bad business in blaming most loyal customers for bad experience

El Al looks to have gotten itself into a big mess, while trying to deflect blame from itself.

The second troubled flight from New York to Israel this past Friday that was affected by the snow storm was flight 002. After some hours of delays the flight finally took off with assurances from the crew that it would land in Israel before Shabbos. Eventually it became known that the flight would land on Shabbos and after some back and forth with upset passengers, the decision was made to land in Athens and put the religious passengers in a hotel with kosher food while the rest of the passengers would be shuttled to Israel.

El Al put out a notice that the Haredi passengers had created a stir, screaming, pushing and hitting, and even threatening to storm the cabin. They even (supposedly) filed a complaint with the police about this. Ynet ran an article making this claim and it raised quite a ruckus.

The one thing that El Al does not seem to get is that in today's day and age, everyone has a cellphone on them and can document everything that is going on. As well, everyone can post anything on the Internet and it does not need to get cleared by newspaper editors with agendas. After the plane landed in Athens and after the passengers discovered what El Al had done to them, accusing them of horrible behavior, the flood of counter-articles began. Yehuda Shlezinger, a religious reporter for Israel Hayom started it with his post to Facebook and post to Twitter saying that nobody was screaming and fighting, rather El Al lied to them, El Al tried to confiscate phones, El Al did not give answers, treated passengers badly, etc. Then other articles began appearing form other passengers in various news media, including "Kezteleh" writing in Arutz7, a passenger writing in Maariv, and others. I also have a friend who was on the flight who denied any such behavior and claims El Al made it all up.

Basically, El Al made up this fake news in an attempt to deflect blame form themselves.

Was there some screaming? Probably. Put 300 passengers in line for a flight that is a few hours late and surely a few people will be screaming. Put a few hundred Israelis together in any tight situation and a few people will be screaming. That's ok. Were they violent? The overwhelming number of eyewitnesses claim that the passengers were not violent and it was the El Al crew and staff that treated passengers badly. Even with all the claims made by El Al and in Ynet, and also reported by Kan, none of the video displayed (that I saw) showed violent passengers.

El Al owes the passenger sof the flight an apology. But more than that - the Haredi community is one of the last communities that continues to regularly support El Al and prefer flying with El Al over other airlines. I don't know why though I have heard in the past that El Al is the only airline on which the Haredim can fly while making some of their demands and behavior (gender segregation, minyanim, etc) without concern of repercussions and that is why they continue to prefer El Al... For El Al to treat one of their major customer bases like this, shaming them and blaming them and making false accusations against them is really bad business.

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  1. Sure looks like El Al screwed up, mainly with communication.

    I read several accounts of the incident and it seems that at no point did the Captain or any other El Al employee explain to the passengers exactly what was happening. Even when they landed in Athens, no one said what the arrangements were, several passengers said that they saved their airline breakfast worried that this was the only food they would have for Shabbat, when in fact there were 70 rooms booked in a Hotel across the road from the terminal with kosher food prepared by the Chabad Shlichim.

    Several hours earlier, when El Al contacted the hotel and Chabad, if the captain made an announcement that these backup plans were in place should they not be able to get to Tel Aviv before Shabbat, that would have alleviated a lot of the anger, tension, and uncertainty and made the whole ordeal easier for everyone.

    Many people fly El Al specifically because they know that if there is a problem and they will not make their destination before Shabbat, El Al will make alternative arrangements, and that is exactly what happened in this case. No idea why they couldn't assure the passengers that this was happening, even hours after the Chabad Shaliach had started cooking meals for them in Athens.

  2. El Al is the only airline that would, at the end of the day, divert a flight to let passengers off before Shabbos.


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