"Welcome to Palestine," said an Alitalia pilot as he landed in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, causing a stir among passengers and the airline's Israeli employees, a spokesman for the company said.
"We have not spoken to the captain," said the company's spokesperson in Israel, Orly Segal. "But if this did happen it will not go over quietly."
The incident happened on an overnight flight from Rome to Tel Aviv and touched a nerve on Memorial Day, when Israel pays homage to the 21,540 people killed in Israel's wars. A beareaved family coming to pay respects on Memorial Day was on board at the time.
Segal said that airline workers in Israel have sent a letter of complaint to the Italian national airline's headquarters in Rome and the Israeli Airports Authority has demanded an explanation. "One thing is certain, this captain will not fly to Israel again," Segal said.
Alitalia CEO sent a letter of apology to Israel's ambassador on Tuesday. The company said that the pilot would no longer fly to Israel. A similar incident took place recently with the pilot of an Air France aircraft.