Shomer Shabbos Passengers Demand Compensation, Apology From El Al

An El Al plane at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The saga surrounding the El Al flight 002 from New York to Israel has not subsided.

Yisrael Hayom reported Tuesday that the shomer Shabbos passengers on the infamous flight from New York to Israel on Friday demanded that El Al pay NIS 50,000 (nearly $14,000) to each of the 180 shomer Shabbos passengers who were on board the plane, and to refund the cost of the flight to each passenger.

In addition to the financial compensation, the passengers demand a public announcement from the company that there were no violent incidents on the part of the shomer Shabbos passengers, and that the rumors circulated after the flight were totally unfounded.

Flight 002 from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed for several hours, causing uproar on the plane following fears that the flight would arrive in Israel after the onset of Shabbos. Many shomer Shabbos passengers asked to be allowed to disembark in New York, but the pilot took off and said that they would make it to Israel on time.

It was then decided to change the route and land the plane in Athens for the shomrei Shabbos passengers. After the landing of the flight in Athens a storm began online. Two of the passengers on the flight claimed that the religious passengers behaved violently towards the flight attendants. After the end of Shabbos, Yehuda Schlesinger, a correspondent for Yisrael Hayom, who was on the plane, wrote: “There was no violence on the part of the passengers, if there was violence, it was on the part of the flight attendants.”

Many other first person accounts of the occurrences on the flight have been reported by Hamodia, and all have the same conclusion.

Attorney Amit Hadad and Tamar Polack are representing the passengers. In their letter they accuse the crew of lying to the passengers, and of failing to take care of the passengers who were forced to spend Shabbos in Athens, where the plane landed when it became clear that it could not reach Israel before Shabbos. “El Al reserved rooms in Athens for only 53 of the people who were on the plane, when in reality there were 180 people who wanted accommodations,” their letter said. “Many of them had to sleep on the floor.” The letter specifies these and other issues as violations of El Al’s contract of carrier with passengers, and demands compensation for them.

Gonen Ussishkin, CEO of El Al, said that the airline had opened an investigation into the events of the flight. “Unfortunately we have been dragged into a discussion in which two sides are trying to hurl blame at the other. This is against our principles as people and our values as the national airline. We are saddened by this incident. We accept all criticism with understanding, even when it is unpleasant. El Al is the melting pot of Israeli society, and all Israelis together are on our passenger lists.”