Strike Sends TA Tourists via Eilat

Passengers on a flight operated by El Al's charter subsidiary Sun D'Or International Airlines, who were scheduled to return from Paris to Ben-Gurion International Airport last Friday, returned only last night. They landed at Uvda Airport near the Negev city of Eilat and were transferred by bus to the center of the country. The reason: a combination of circumstances that included a strike at Ben-Gurion, a technical malfunction on the aircraft and issues of Shabbat observance.

The problems with the flight began when its scheduled departure on Thursday was delayed by three and a half hours due to the sanctions by temporary employees at Ben-Gurion. A technical problem further delayed take-off, and the passengers were put up at two airport hotels. The parts needed to repair the aircraft were late in arriving from Ben-Gurion, also due to the strike,

forcing the airline to reschedule departure for Saturday morning. The flight took off at 8 A.M. with only 102 of its 217 passengers aboard due to religious prohibitions against flying on Shabbat.

Religiously observant passengers spent an additional night in a hotel at Sun D'Or's expense. Yesterday morning, however, they learned that all the flights from Paris to Ben-Gurion were fully booked. Passengers were given the option of flying to Uvda or waiting until last night for an El Al flight to Ben-Gurion. The 58 passengers who chose the Uvda option discovered only upon arrival that they would complete their journey by bus.

"Prior to take-off from Paris, a technical malfunction was discovered on the aircraft and the pilots acted responsibly and postponed take-off," Sun D'Or said in response. "Sun D'Or took care of the religious passengers who remained at the hotels on Saturday, providing them with kosher food throughout their hotel stay. All of the airline's efforts to charter aircraft from Arkia or Israir to fly the passengers from Uvda to Ben-Gurion failed. Immediately upon landing, the passengers were met by Sun D'Or representatives who helped them with everything. There was no alternative but to transport the passengers to Tel Aviv on two buses, after providing them with food and beverages for the trip."

Meanwhile, the Israel Airports Authority suspended plans to dismiss 120 temporary employees after Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Histadrut Labor Federation Chair Ofer Eini met last night and agreed to continue negotiations.

The agreement is expected to allow normal work to resume at Ben-Gurion. The decision by Mofaz and Eini parallels the National Labor Court's ruling earlier yesterday to postpone the dismissals until November 15 to allow for "intensive negotiations" between the parties.

On Thursday, a suggestion by the Tel Aviv District Labor Court of a similar suspension of layoffs was rejected by the Israel Airports Authority, and the strike continued for another day.

Foreign Airlines Panel Chairman Avi Friedman called the events of the three days of work sanctions at Ben-Gurion "a shame to the state of Israel." He praised the IAA for continuing to operate Ben-Gurion despite the work actions and making efforts to enable air traffic to and from Israel.