Passengers whose flights are canceled in order not to violate the Sabbath will not be entitled to compensation, the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee decided yesterday.
The committee, chaired by MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud ), was discussing a bill on airline passengers' rights in preparation for sending it to the Knesset plenum for a vote. The bill, sponsored by MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ), details the compensation and help airlines are required to give passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled. The committee approved an article stating that airlines that are forced to cancel flights so as not to make passengers violate the Jewish Sabbath need not pay the passengers any financial compensation. This provision would particularly affect El Al passengers, as El Al does not fly on Shabbat or Jewish holidays. For example, if an El Al plane had a technical problem and the flight was canceled because the plane was unable to fly before Shabbat, passengers would get no compensation.
Tibi opened the debate with a request to discuss the case of passengers who are not allowed to board flights for security reasons. One article in the bill denies compensation in such cases, but Tibi called the language of "security reasons" too broad and said it needs to be narrowed.
MK Israel Hasson (Kadima ) proposed that if a passenger missed a flight because he was delayed for security reasons but was ultimately cleared to fly, he should be entitled to compensation. But in this case, the MKs agreed, the airline would not be responsible for paying the compensation.
A representative of the Shin Bet security service said that if the state were required to pay compensation for those delayed due to security reasons, it would introduce economic pressure into strictly security decisions. Today, a passenger who is delayed in such a case can file suit for damages, but is not compensated automatically.
"The phrase 'for security reasons' was intended to protect passengers, and it does not seem logical that the state should have to pay compensation because of it," the Shin Bet representative said.
But Tibi and Hasson said that sometimes passengers are delayed for too long, and then compensation is due.
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