Text size

Since flight is the most expensive means of transportation, the legislator enacted special regulations allowing airlines to overbook passengers and then refuse to let passengers board due to overbooking, according to attorney Zeev Friedman of the Israel Consumer Council.

Robbie Hershkowitz, CEO of Brussels Airlines in Israel, explains: "The airline has to weigh its steps to avoid situations in which flights take off with empty seats, as in a case of where seats were reserved on a flight but not used because passengers didn't bother ordering a ticket."

It turns out that this is a highly common and problematic phenomenon. Lufthansa, for example, reports that an astonishing number of people - approximately 4.9 million - made reservations with the airline but did not show up for their flight in 2006. "The scope of this phenomenon is incomprehensible," says Ofer Kish, director of Lufthansa in Israel. "The overbooking method prevented immense financial damage: Some 570,000 passengers who couldn't have reserved seats in the absence of overbooking got on flights."

El Al representatives admit that "the overbooking and waiting-list policies are meant to prevent economic uncertainty and losses as a result of numerous last-minute cancelations." However, they also claim that "El Al's policy of close supervision, at a much more detailed level of resolution than the industry standard, allows it to minimize uncertainty regarding each and every flight without excessive overbooking. As a result, except in specific cases, the airline manages to predict what will happen and adjust its flights."