Flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport to New York and Brussels were canceled on Monday after El Al pilots failed to show up, while last minute changes were made for flights to Barcelona.
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Pilots failing to show up for flights are nothing new at El Al. Just last week, a flight from Beijing to Tel Aviv was canceled after El Al pilots there took slowdown measures. While El Al treats these instances as work disruptions, the Histadrut labor federation asserts they are “most likely a technical problem in assigning pilots.”
El Al commented: “Despite the labor agreement signed with workers including pilots, the pilots are engaging in work disruptions and not fulfilling the duties the company has placed upon them, contrary to what is customary. As a result, flights were disrupted. Company management made every effort to prevent inconveniences to passengers. However, today it was forced to enact changes in flights this morning to Barcelona and to cancel flights to New York and Brussels because of the lack of response of the pilots to show up to work as was decided. The company apologizes for the inconvenience to passengers and is working to find them solutions. The company calls on the pilots to show up to flights and prevent an inconvenience to passengers.”
The chairman of the transportation workers committee in the Histadrut, Avi Edri, denied El Al’s claim that work disruptions were involved. “From our perspective, there are no work disruptions, and what is happening is that the company is not assigning pilots correctly. The pilots have an employment contract that allows them rest after a flight, but the company asks to shorten the rest period contrary to the agreement. El Al assigns so many flights but does not take into account that it does not have enough pilots, and here is where the problem begins.”
The El Al pilots union commented: “It’s chutzpah and shameless of El Al management to blame the pilots for the work and flight disruptions at a time when the average El Al pilot has been working time-and-a-half, and even more, for over a year. Every El Al pilot shows up, as always, at their regular flights on the schedule and also carry out many additional flights. The fact that management decided to lease foreign planes at the expense of the pilots and passengers has burdened passengers and company employees for an entire month."
The union complained that the decision last week to add another leased plane and to adversely affect pilots and passengers even more led to the current crisis, in which El Al failed on Monday to man a small number of flights that had no personnel.
“We demand El Al management to find an immediate solution,” the union declared. “It is clear that ending the leases will make it better for the passengers and allow manning all the flights, even if we have to give up on our rest. We will continue for our part to fly as much as we can while observing rest laws and carefully observing professional and safe Hebrew labor. Since the morning, it has been clear that stopping the operation of leased airplanes will end the crisis and stop inconveniencing customers. It is a shame that company management insists at this stage to save money by continuing to do damage to pilots and passengers instead of ending the crisis immediately. Our hearts are with the passenger, who were inconvenienced because of El Al management policy.”