El Al pays price for Sabbath flight

El Al’s controversial flight to Israel, which could not make it to the destination in time for Shabbat, will cost the airline close to NIS 2 million. 

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

El Al, Israel’s national carrier, announced on Monday that it was offering a free trip to Europe to 400 passengers on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv last week that failed to reach its destination in time for the Sabbath. The flight was diverted to Athens so that observant Jews would not be forced to desecrate the holy day.

El Al not only suffered a public relations setback, but also incurred significant financial loss.

Israel’s Channel 2 news spoke with aviation officials who estimated that the affair cost El Al a total of $450,000, or about NIS 1.7 million.

Two flights departed from Israel to Athens a week ago Friday in order to bring the non-observant passengers to Tel Aviv, which cost $150,000. The airline also provided meals for roughly 200 religious passengers who were hosted in Athens hotels, adding up to another $60,000.

A special plane set out on Saturday night to pick up the religious passengers, costing El Al another $100,000. The compensation of a free plane ticket to Europe will cost another $100,000. Various fees will add another $40,000 to the total sum.

Altogether, the saga totalled approximately 450,000, However, these expenses are apparently less damaging for the company than facing a loss of ultra-Orthodox clientele, who make up a significant percentage of El Al’s passengers.

One rabbi even threatened to boycott El Al after the airline slandered the ultra-Orthodox community by suggesting religious passengers resorted to violence on the flight. The company subsequently walked back its comments, claiming any statements that cast aspersions on any group of passengers was not made with its official approval.