just not fare

Question: I bought airline tickets from El-Al for a direct flight to Israel and the airline bumped me. Am I entitled to compensation?

Shlomie from Brooklyn

Shlomie, thank you for contacting us. Getting bumped, especially against your will, is never a good feeling but we are going to cheer you up. Good news: you are entitled to compensation under Israel’s Aviation Law!

Flights (any airlines) scheduled to land in Israel as well as those flights that take off from Israel are covered by Israel’s Aviation Law.

The law is a bit confusing but here is the simplified version. You are entitled to compensation if:

  • You are bumped off a flight voluntarily or involuntarily — in the words of the law, “refusal to fly a passenger on a flight”
  • Your flight is cancelled
  • Your flight is delayed more than 8 hours

Refusal to Fly a Passenger on a Flight

Shlomie, you did not explain whether you got bumped voluntarily, meaning the airline was looking for volunteers to give up their seat on the flight and you agreed, or they just kicked you off the flight because they were overbooked.

If you volunteered to be ‘bumped’ the law does not get involved; the amount of compensation shall be negotiated between the passenger and the airline. Generally, the airlines start with an offer of a free voucher for future travel (that way they do not actually have to give money out of pocket). Subsequently, as they get closer to the flight, they generally offer $400, and as they get even closer to the flight and are more pressured they may go as high as the cost of your ticket.

However, irrespective of whether you volunteered to be bumped or they bumped you against your will the airline must provide “Assistance Services.”

Assistance Services Include:

  • Food and drink, or vouchers to buy such items
  • If your being bumped forces you to wait overnight for the next flight, then you are entitled to a hotel room and the airline also must provide a shuttle to and from the hotel, and
  • Communication services: either two phone calls or access to fax or email by choice of the passenger

If you are bumped against your will the law dictates how much the airline must pay you.

Shlomie, I am sure you want to know how much money you are entitled to and I wish I could give you an easy answer but nothing about this law is simple.

Since you did not specify otherwise, we will assume that you did not volunteer but the airline bumped you off the flight involuntarily.

And as for the amount you are owed …

Not so simple, so let’s break it down:

  • If the airline for some reason decides to cancel your flight without offering a future replacement trip by the airlines then you are entitled to $838 (3080 NIS) (full value) and reimbursement of the cost of your original ticket.
  • If you agree to a replacement ticket supplied by the airline (they will fly you on a future flight), then you are entitled to $409 (1540 NIS) (half the full amount).

Unless –

Your arrival time on the replacement flight is more than 6 hours after your scheduled landing on your original flight.

In this case, you are entitled to the full value listed above!

Shlomie, we suggest you send a respectful yet adamant email or fax (it is better if it is in writing so you have proof of receipt) to El Al demanding compensation. If for whatever reason you experience difficulty collecting the compensation rightfully due you, please feel free to contact us and we would be glad to “motivate” El Al to pay you!

Moshe Fuld is a civil litigation attorney, a consumer advocate and an expert in aviation law. His company fights for passengers who experienced cancelled/delayed flights, lost luggage, or  sustained injuries on an aircraft worldwide.

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