In 2018, then secular owned El Al accused chareidim of physical violence which led to the flight being delayed and later diverted due to Shabbos timing.
I interviewed passengers onboard that flight and found ATC audio proving that in fact the captain of that flight lied to passengers and ATC. El Al later walked back those comments, but the damage was done. Even to today, Israeli media still blames that flight diversion on chareidim, despite El Al admitting that was incorrect.
At the time I said that it seemed inevitable that a Dr. Dao situation would eventually arise.
When the Rozenberg family purchased the controlling stake in El Al, I had half a dozen off the record meetings with the company’s new ownership, frequent flyer program, and executive management team, and one of the many items I brought up was the need to think critically about solutions for how to cater to the charedi community and avoid such incidents from happening again.
That included a designated time for a minyan, improved kosher meals, and several potential ways to avoid issues with seat assignments for charedim. For example, perhaps there could be a small upsell for a “Daf yomi” section that would come with some onboard learning amenities and have blue and pink rows for those who so desire.
Just last month there was an incident where an El Al flight attendant threatened an on-board minyan with fines for congregating in the galley. Historically, US airlines have been more accommodating than El Al for having a minyan onboard in the galley.
Wisely, El Al will now trial sanctioned minyanim on long-haul flights when it isn’t possible to daven before or after the flight. That means if a flight departs Tel Aviv at 1am and arrives into NYC at 7am, there wouldn’t be a minyan option on that flight, but a flight leaving NYC at 9pm and arriving into Tel Aviv at 2pm would have a minyan option.
Minyan times will be announced and flight attendants will close the bathrooms and leave the rear galley for minyan use. Masks will be required at all times.
I’d say this is a great start for removing potential flash points for arguments onboard El Al flights. Now, if only the seat issue could be resolved and an upsell option for Tabernacle catered kosher mehadrin meals would be introduced!