Israel's Flagship Carrier El Al to Start Charging for Wi-Fi Services

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Israeli airliner El Al planes parked at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, April 21, 2013.
Israeli airliner El Al planes parked at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, April 21, 2013.Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP

El Al Israel Airlines has launched a promotional campaign touting the Wi-Fi service that it will be offering on flights between Israel and Europe beginning on July 15. The service has already been made available on a limited basis at no charge for nearly two years, but the airline says the service was offered free while the system was being rolled out and will be available for a fee on select European flights after the end of October.

The basic package will cost $3.99, with more extensive service available for $9.99 and $19.99. Wi-Fi will remain free on El Al flights to North America on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft through the end of the year. All three price options offer unlimited duration and data volume. In addition to the basic Wi-Fi package, which provides instant messaging, and email in addition to regular internet access, the $9.99 package includes access to apps and short videos, while the $19.99 package includes full access to movies, music and virtual private networks.

Miki Strassburger, El Al’s VP for marketing, said that over the past two years, the airline has installed the internet systems on aircraft that it operates but had not officially launched the Wi-Fi offering until it was clear that passengers were being provided well-functioning service. The service, he said, would remain free on the Dreamliner flights to North America until the system on those planes is fully up and running. Of the 24,000 commercial aircraft in service by the world’s airlines, only about 6,000 of them offer Wi-Fi, mostly in North America, Strassburger added.

El Al has had its share of adverse publicity, including fraught labor negotiations with its pilots that caused some cancelled flights. An additional flight, from Tel Aviv to Mumbai, was cancelled on Wednesday. El Al has attributed the cancellations to operational difficulties, but observers believe that they were cancelled due to a deadlock in the negotiations.

There was also a highly publicized incident last month in which ultra-Orthodox male passengers refused to sit next to women, who were then reseated. Following a backlash over the incident, El Al vowed to ask anyone who refuses to sit next to another passenger to leave the plane.

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