El Al Passengers Held in Luton Over Shabbos

LONDON -
An El Al plane waits at the Ben Gurion International Airport. February 26, 2015. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90 *** Local Caption *** îèåñé çáøú àì òì ðúá'â ðúáâ îèåñ ðîì úòåôä ùãä úòåôä áï âåøéåï
An El Al plane waits at the Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

An El Al flight from London’s Luton Airport to Israel on Thursday afternoon was first delayed, then canceled after technicians failed to repair the plane. The passengers initially thought that they would return to Israel on Friday, but the flight is now scheduled for Motzoei Shabbos.

The flight was due to take off at 2 p.m. on Thursday, from Luton Airport. The Boeing 737 suffered a fault in the electrical system, and after several hours of unsuccessful attempts to repair it, El Al postponed the flight, first to Friday morning, and then to 11 p.m. on Motzoei Shabbos.

“While boarding, the captain announced that there would be a slight delay,” related Noam, who was on the plane when the fault was discovered. Talking to Yediot Aharonot, he said, “We sat for two hours on the plane and then they took us back to the terminal, where we waited for four hours without even a representative of El Al updating us on what was happening. It took too long – there were elderly people there and tired, crying babies. Finally the captain announced that the flight was canceled and we were sent to spend the night at Heathrow, a two-and-a-half hour drive away as there was no closer accommodation.”

Passengers said that there was a lack of coordination between Israeli representatives and the company’s representative in London, who were informed about the need for an alternate flight. “The Israeli representative told us to go to the airport on Friday morning, as the flight would leave soon, but when we arrived we were told the flight was apparently canceled. Only at 4:30 a.m., after a two-hour drive to the airport, we finally learned this morning that the flight is canceled.”

“A ‘small delay’ has become a great disappointment and right now we have to worry about a hotel, a synagogue and kosher food,” said Noam.

Gary Sagiv told Yediot Aharonot that there had been no information. “El Al did not explain anything to us since yesterday evening,” he said. “Yesterday we sat for nearly five hours at the terminal and there were no representatives to explain what would happen, only after people started shouting, they came and talked to us. Malfunctions can occur, but they couldn’t manage to send someone who would update us on anything. The real test of an airline is measured when an error occurs, and they know how to give service and to find alternatives. In our case, the performance was very poor. It hurt me to see concerned elderly people there, and the staff were not worried about them.”

A team of technicians flew to London on Friday morning to repair the plane. The company said in response that, “El Al Flight 312 Luton to Tel Aviv was supposed to leave yesterday at 14:00. It has been postponed till Saturday night due to an electrical failure on the plane. Yesterday evening, efforts were made to solve the problem and allow the plane to take off. When it became apparent that this would not happen, passengers and crew transferred to hotels.”

Hamodia contacted El Al on Friday morning. A representative said that the company was contacting each passenger individually to help them manage their specific requirements. Some passengers would still be traveling to Israel on Friday, while others would be remaining in the U.K. till Motzoei Shabbos.