El Al Flights Canceled as Labor Crisis Escalates; Union Threatens Strike

El Al says it would offer a full refund over canceled reservations or rescheduling and impose no fees for the rest of November.

Gili Melnitcki
Gili Melnitcki
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
el al
Despite management's denials, El Al's financial standing has been harmed by the pilots' work-to-rule.Credit: Archive
Gili Melnitcki
Gili Melnitcki

Labor strife at El Al Airlines grew worse on Sunday as the carrier canceled and rescheduled flights, and labor unions threatened to widen the dispute between management and pilots to include the entire workforce.

The airline canceled Flight 081 to Bangkok Sunday and rescheduled Flight 095 from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Flight 027 departed on time from Ben-Gurion International Airport to New York but on a jet leased from another airline.

In an attempt to mitigate the damage to its reputation and inconvenience to customers, El Al said it would offer people who cancel reservations or reschedule their flights because of disruption a full refund and impose no fees for the rest of November.

Sources said the move will add significantly to the losses the carrier has been suffering in its battle with pilots that took a turn for the worse just over a week ago after management adopted a tougher line toward the labor slowdown by pilots. El Al shares fell 4.1% to 3.36 shekels (86 cents) on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Sunday, the biggest loser among stocks traded in the TA-100 index.

The El Al workers committee said Sunday it would be holding an emergency meeting on Sunday amid concerns that cabin and ground crews were losing work hours due to canceled flights and the company’s practice of leasing jets. It said it was particularly concerned about the airline’s approximately 2,000 temporary employees, who account for about a third of the total.

Union leaders will seek authorization for a company-wide labor dispute that would allow them to call a strike after a two-week cooling-off period.

“The livelihood of hundreds of El Al workers are in danger in the coming year,” said Avi Eizner, chairman of the El Al workers committee, explaining that they were vulnerable to being laid off. “El Al management does not concern itself with these thousands of invisible workers, who make a minimum salary.”

El Al management responded that it had no choice but to lease jets from foreign carriers, which include their crews, to make up for shortfalls caused by pilots’ calling in sick as part of the pressure tactics. Others have refused to fly roundtrips.

“El Al’s CEO has said that the leased aircraft will be returned if the pilots undertake to stop flying in one direction,” the airline said in a statement. “We encourage employees not to believe [false information] being spread about them that do not reflect the management’s plans.”

Apart from their concern about temporary employees, the workers committee is concerned that the introduction of Boeing 787s to El Al’s fleet will lead to layoffs because the advanced jets require less maintenance. There were also reports that El Al plans to develop training academies overseas for foreign pilots to help cope with the shortage of pilots in Israel.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott