Passenger: El Al Waited 90 Minutes for Tardy Rabbi

A group of ultra-Orthodox passengers delayed for about 90 minutes the takeoff of a scheduled El Al flight from Kiev to Ben-Gurion Airport last month because their rabbi was late in getting to the airport, according to a passenger on the flight. El Al and its Ukrainian partner have a monopoly on the route.

"The passengers were in their seats. The flight attendants were ordered to close the doors when a Haredi passenger suddenly came running from the back of the plane to the front," the businessman related. He said the flight was scheduled to take off at 11:35 P.M. on June 19.

"He ordered a flight attendant not to take off, and to wait for a rabbi who was supposed to arrive," the passenger continued. "An argument began and [the Haredi passenger] called up several other Haredi passengers, who came up to Business Class. They threatened to leave the plane unless the flight was delayed for the rabbi."

According to the passenger who spoke to Haaretz about the incident, about 35 minutes after the scheduled takeoff time the pilot announced that after consulting with Tel Aviv he was instructed to wait for the rabbi, who arrived about an hour later with two or three other ultra-Orthodox men. The rabbi, a man in his 70s, according to the witness, took his seat and told his fellow passengers, "Every delay is for the best."

"The flight was delayed due to the tardiness of a group of about 15 passengers," El Al said in a response.

"There were about 150 passengers, not all Haredim," the source said. "I fly El Al frequently and never experienced anything like this, a plane filled with passengers sitting and waiting for a latecomer. What if this were a flight with passengers who had to catch a connection? Instead of landing at 2 A.M. we landed at 3:30 A.M."