‘Angry’ Rivlin protests seating on flight from Dubai, grabs steward’s place

The tiff was caused by the need to combine flights from Dubai due to security concerns, a growing problem for Israeli airlines.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Former President Reuven Rivlin was told he could not sit next to his companion their El Al flight back home from Dubai Thursday and protested by taking a steward’s seat instead of the offered open spot in business class.

Eyewitnesses told Ynet that Rivlin was “irritable, spoke inappropriately to the flight attendants and behaved childishly, he was really angry.” They said he expressed his displeasure by first going to sit in a flight attendant’s seat in the back of the plane and then switching to one in the front, all while being trailed by his security detail.

Sources close to the former president said that although he was angry, he behaved in a restrained manner. Neither Rivlin nor El Al responded to requests for comment on the matter.

The background to the tiff was El Al’s decision to combine three flights into one, forcing last-minute changes to seating arrangements, including for those flying in business class. The Rivlins had been booked on one of the ultimately cancelled flights.

El Al has been forced to scratch many flights in recent weeks due to an ongoing security issue in the Emirates. Recently, airport authorities in Dubai significantly reduced the allowed number of El Al’s armed security guards from 120 to 25, meaning that far fewer planes could fly to and from the popular Gulf airport.

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According to a letter sent by the chairmen of all three Israeli airlines – El Al, Arkia and Israir – to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, security and other technical issues regarding flights to Dubai have cost “thousands of cancellations.” For the sector that has been one the hardest hit of all by the Covid-19 pandemic, this loss of business is a serious matter.

Israeli airline and Civil Aviation Authority officials have been trying to resolve the problems with their counterparts in the UAE. Flights to and from Abu Dhabi, the national capital of the Emirates, have not been affected by the security issue.