Israeli Airline Security-staff Crisis Is Solved, Lifting Threat of Cancelled Flights

Accord will increase staffing to 1,200 from 950 for 2018 but leave open future funding

El Al Boeing plane in flight. August 8, 2006.
El Al Boeing plane in flight. August 8, 2006.Credit: 2015 Boeing

Hundreds of international flights by Israel’s three airlines are no longer at risk of being canceled after the finance and foreign ministries, together with the National Security Council, reached an agreement on Thursday to cover the financial costs of security.

The agreement, finalized over the last few days, calls for increasing funding for 1,200 security personnel – up from 950 – stationed at foreign airports to supervise boarding. The Finance Ministry agreed to allocate the funds to the Foreign Ministry to cover the added costs.

However, the agreement is only for 2018, which means the sides will have to return to negotiations over funding costs in the next few months.

The lack of funding for security personnel had reached a crisis in recent weeks, as airlines said they were going to pull scheduled flights during the Passover holiday and summer season because there was no security. The Foreign Ministry said it didn’t have the funds to pay for the additional staff.

Demand for security personnel has soared as more and more Israelis fly overseas due to the Open Skies agreement with the European Union, which has led to lower airfares and more flights since it was signed in 2013.

Security costs are paid for by the government, but El Al Airlines, Israel’s flag carrier, operates the program for itself and for two smaller carriers, Israir and Arkia.

The airlines notified El Al last July about their security needs for the summer of 2018, but unlike past years when El Al issued its approvals by the end of December, this time around they did not come after the airline announced it was short 250 staffers to provide security for the other two airlines.

The security personnel are Israeli citizens who live overseas and are employed by local Israeli embassies as authorized employees of the Foreign Ministry. El Al, however, trains and supervises them.

The new agreement also calls for El Al to provide two attorneys who will provide legal services for the security personnel with lawsuits and personnel issues.

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