Israel's El Al Signs Deal to End Labor Dispute With Pilots

El Al had to cancel dozens of flights in recent weeks. Under the collective bargaining agreement, pilot salaries will return to their pre-pandemic levels by 2023

Hadar Kane
Hadar Kane
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An El Al passenger jet.
An El Al passenger jet.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Hadar Kane
Hadar Kane

A labor union representing El Al pilots signed on Sunday a special collective bargaining agreement with the Israeli flag carrier, ending a weeks-long crisis that forced it to cancel more than a hundred flights since June.

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The deal between the company's management, the Histadrut labor federation and the pilots arranges labor relations at the airline in an effort to increase efficiency, as El Al works to recover from the global aviation crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The agreement, which will be in force until the end of 2025, stipulates that pilots’ salaries will gradually return to their pre-pandemic levels by the beginning of 2023. The agreement will also allow for the operation of leased planes through the expansion of commercial operations.

El Al's continuing crisis with its pilots has caused a wave of last-minute cancellations. In June, the company cancelled 78 flights, and 30 more in the first week of July, according to the airlines' internal figures.

Considering that each flight carries between 170 and 280 passengers, this means that around 20,000 customers had their flights cancelled.

The Israeli Aviation Services Law obligates airlines to compensate customers for a cancelled flight. If compensation is delayed or not refunded, customers are entitled to take the airline to court and sue for compensation – without having to prove any damages suffered – for up to 10,350 shekels ($2,992).

This leaves El Al with a potential 2-million-shekel bill in compensation for all the flights it had to cancel recently.

The coronavirus pandemic caused demand for flights to drop drastically in 2020, and regular operation partially ceased due to entry restrictions in many countries and required testing and isolation periods. This led to an unprecedented crisis for the aviation industry that hit Israel's flag carrier hard, forcing the government to eventually intervene and rescue the airline.

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