El Al stops flying as it shuts down cargo flights too

Unable to find pilots willing to fly, the national airline stopped cargo flights which it had hoped to continue.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

El Al’s crisis deepened late last week as the company shuttered its cargo flights, effectively ceasing its operations. The last cargo flight, from Houston, Texas, landed in Ben Gurion on Friday.

The airline had planned to continue operating cargo flights after announcing the cancellation of its passenger flights on Wednesday.

But pilots didn’t respond to a company call to man its planes due to an ongoing dispute between El Al management and workers over how best to handle the crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

El Al told pilots and crew on Thursday, “The company’s board of directors has decided to shut down the company’s operations and put the remaining air crew on unpaid leave from tomorrow. We have already informed them of this intention, as the CEO told the (newly elected) [pilot’s] committee in a conversation held to get to know them.”

El Al also said, “After the pilots refused to fly the company’s flights (cargo flights and a small number of passenger flights), we have been forced to adjust our work force and put 500 additional employees on unpaid leave including 100 pilots.”

El Al reported first quarter losses of $140 million. Since March, El Al had already severely cut back its flights due to the corona crisis.

The state carrier in May asked for government-backed loans of $400 million to help it weather the crisis.

The pilot’s union is reportedly in favor of another plan, which would lead to nationalization of El Al. In that plan, Israel’s Finance Ministry would back $250 million in bank loans on condition that El Al issue $150 million in shares, which the state would buy if no one else did, making it a majority owner.

However, government officials are not in favor of nationalization.

“The state is not interested in nationalizing El Al and making it a government company. The aim is to assist the company so it can recover from the crisis,” a Finance Ministry official told Reuters in mid-May.