El Al Diverts Flight 8 From JFK To Tel Aviv, Shamefully Flies Passengers Far Too Close To Shabbos And Strands Them At Athens Airport

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El Al 747s in Goose Bay, January 2018
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El Al has had a miserable couple of weeks. Globes reports that El Al has been forced to cancel 4 round-trip flights to Boston due to pilot scheduling issues. Flights to Beijing and Hong Kong have also been scrubbed while other flights have suffered lengthy delays due to pilot issues or operational issues as El Al calls it.

You’ll recall that earlier this year, El Al Flight 8 from JFK to Tel Aviv had an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Canada. You can listen to the audio of the Mayday call in this post. El Al had to send out another 747 to Goose Bay to bring them home.

El Al Flight 8 was scheduled to depart last night at 11:45pm and arrive in Tel Aviv at 5:10pm today. It took off from JFK 57 minutes late at 12:42am this morning.

As a religious Jew, I would avoid this flight as it is only scheduled to arrive 2.5 hours before Shabbos starts. There are just too many variables that can create havoc with Shabbos to fly on a flight that arrives so close to Shabbos.

And that’s indeed what happened. DDF member ycohen’s sister was on the flight and reports that there was a medical emergency and the flight was diverted to Gander, Canada.

Gander was made famous by the book “The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland” When I read that book I cried, laughed, and enjoyed the parts about the Lubavitcher shliach figuring out why he was stuck in Gander for Shabbos. It also inspired a Broadway musical, Come From Away.

It arrived in Gander at 6:25am this morning. While frum passengers onboard asked to leave the plane, they were not allowed to do so. El Al announced that they would land in Europe and pay for a hotel for passengers who wanted to spend Shabbos there. The flight departed Gander at 8:26am.

El Al knew that the flight could not make it to Tel Aviv before Shabbos and they decided to divert the plane to Athens to drop off religious Jews there. Unfortunately the plane landed in Athens at 8:33pm, just 17 minutes before sunset.

ycohen’s sister last texted him when it was 12 minutes before sunset and the 747 was still taxiing to the gate.

Why did El Al decide to land in Athens instead of any airport in Western Europe where there would have been plenty of time before Shabbos for the passengers to leave the plane and get settled in a hotel or Jewish community?

The only plausible reason I can think of is that it will be significantly cheaper for El Al to ferry the passengers from Athens to Tel Aviv instead of Western Europe to Tel Aviv. But because of that they created a situation where one of their primary target markets, religious Jews, likely had to violate laws of Shabbos when exiting the plane. (Disclaimer: Ask your Rabbi for more information on the Shabbos laws in this scenario).

The 747 continued on from Athens to Tel Aviv on Shabbos and is scheduled to arrive in Tel Aviv shortly.

DDF member “z” writes that his brother was on the flight and told him that Rabbi Mendel Hendel, from Chabad of Athens, arranged for Shabbos food to be brought to the airport and reserved a lounge in the airport as well. Kudos to Chabad for saving the day yet again.

It’s unclear if they were able to make it to an airport hotel or where passengers will sleep tonight.

The lesson here is obvious. If you care about Shabbos, don’t choose flights that arrive within several hours of Shabbos! Flights can be delayed on the tarmac for several hours before taking off, so even barring a diversion, a flight delay can cause issues for any flight arriving within several hours of Shabbos. And that’s not even accounting for traffic issues after you arrive close to Shabbos. Frankly, I was shocked to learn that there were so many religious Jews on this flight.

But once again, El Al leaves me very disappointed in their decision making. There is simply no moral justification for the national airline of Israel flying all the way to Athens in this scenario. They may have saved a few shekels by needing a shorter ferry flight to get passengers home after Shabbos, but this will likely cost them more than that reputationally among one of their major target markets.

HT: Proisrael, via DDF


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93 Comments On "El Al Diverts Flight 8 From JFK To Tel Aviv, Shamefully Flies Passengers Far Too Close To Shabbos And Strands Them At Athens Airport"

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Jonny

No question this was an unacceptable course of action by El Al, but anyone who plans a trip that allows just a 2 hour margin of error for Shabbos is extremely irresponsible.

What a nightmare.

Yub

The flight from Wednesday was canceled and passengers were allocated on this flight instead

Jshab

wow- how unfair to the passengers who planned to fly well enough ahead of Shabbos – what a misfortune –

Nechemia

Don’t fly close to shabbos!

Shaul

Is it possible that there were visa issues with allowing certain passengers to enter in Western Europe and Greece was the best option? Or do all EU countries have the same visa requirements?

Chaim

Rabbi Hendel is in NY for 3 tamuz. His wife did all of it!

Mk

Kudos to the Rebbetzin who I am sure was busy preparing for her own Shabbos!

Zalman

Hero of the day!

Eli

Idk how you can consider yourself shomer shabbos and take this flight, but elal dropped the ball here, which is why being the national airline means nothing to me when i decide which airline to fly…

Avi

I wouldn’t that if you care about Shabbos not to fly. Some people might not have had a choice.

GTR

As bad as a gentile like me posting a deal so close to (or on) shabbos?!?!

Menachem

Unfortunately some times people have no choice but to take that flight, it almost always delayed due to shipments and levayas.

Shaul

There’s always a choice.

Don\'t judge

There is deff not always a choice. There is ways extenuating circumstances. Don’t judge

Nechemia

That’s correct!My Rov ,Rav schinnerman was totally against traveling on Fridays!

qsman

Agree with Shaul. Shabbos is Shabbos. I have never seen travel on Erev Shabbos as a “choice”. It’s a risk not to be taken. I figure out a suitable alternative. Unfortunately in today’s day and age everyone wants the absolute best INSTANT solution no matter what the risk or consequences may be.

danthecan

I once traveled on an El Al flight from NY to Eretz Yisroel that landed an hour or two before Shabbos. I was accompanying my father’s aron so he could have a kevura before Shabbos. Granted not a typical situation, but a lesson that there sometimes are exceptions to the rule. Try to give a person the benefit of the doubt before you rush to judgment.

Ronnie Kalatizadeh

things like this are why i fly delta from jfk to tlv. el al was in the wrong here even though no religious jew should fly that close to shabbat. even once you land in tlv 2 hours before shabbat it could take a while to get your bags then youll need a taxi, etc. not worth the risk.

David

Well this is one of the many reasons why el al is truly a disgrace. I’ve dealt with Rabbi Hendel in Athens and he and his family are amazing! But sadly this just shows another reason why we’re better off going with other carriers which is a very sad reality.

ElAldoesntsoundgreatbasedonyourposts

So a decision by an airline messes up the night and extends into shabbos. What’s the big deal? It’s not like you knowingly ate meat and milk at the same time or knowingly ate non kosher food or used electricity of convenience. You’re saying you shouldn’t book that flight because it may cause issues but what other flight times do they offer? Maybe it’s the only flight they can take? Just throwing it out there.

Tony c

There’s a flight 4 hours earlier Same night.

Sky121

Is it really their responsibility at all to get them anywhere before Shabbos?

RACHEL

what do you expect from a zionist airline ?

reb yid

Shows why we need chareidim on LY board of directors

CB

Sometimes there might be circumstances you did not consider, Dan. I am guessing that as this was unfolding they were considering who will fly the last leg. It is very possible that the crew reached mandatory rest or reached common sense rest. In that case maybe this was the most feasible place to have a crew brought in and ready, maybe they had a flight just going to Athens at that time.
I appreciate your web blog. I appreciate your knowledge as a holder of an MBA. When you comment on airline operations and decision making I suspect there might be some things you do not know.

Qsman

I’m going to call you on this one as I DO know something about airline/airport ops. No crew is going to time out with less than 60 min delay. JFK rush hour is over so taxi times are short. Go to LiveATC and pull Tower recording for tbat time period. According to you sir, every latr ELAL departure should not be making it to Israel but landing in Athens for replacement crew. In addition, if the crew was to time out Dispatch WOD not of let them leave in the first place. So this was a money grubbing decision through and through. I’ll check my FR24 Business account after Shabbos for the tail number and see where in Europe they sent this plane to. They can send it to any airpit that they have a ground contract to support 747 operations, and I am sure there are better airports than Athens which they don’t send the 747 but I bet the LANDING FEES are probably DIRT CHEAP saving another few shekels!!!!

Qsman

Oh yes, they diverted. Same timeout rule applies!!!!!! They should not of left at all if they were going to time out!!!

Yossi

I’m sure Dan that they did Athens because it’s the closest and cheapest city to Israel. Disgrace on elal. It’s just stupid of them. I wouldn’t judge people on the flight because there are so many scenarios where people don’t have a choice. Good Shabbos.

Aaron

El Al is a last resort for me. I stopped flying with them 6 years ago.

Mark B

I thought elal had some standing arrangement with Zurich to land there if a flight cannot make it to TLV in reasonable time b$ Shabbat (and I don’t mean within an hour!) and have the community help out for shabbat as I think once happened a few years ago. All the comments about concerns for the Shomer shabbat pax, HOWEVER, how is the medical emergency case and family doing??? Is that person alone in Gander now???

Shabbat Shalom

El Al

What about the rest of the plane? Isn’t El Al not allowed to fly on shabbos according to law ?

Jack

I don’t understand. Why is everyone blaming Elal??? It’s absolutely not their responsibility to get people anywhere before shabbos. Quite frankly I’m extremely surprised they stopped in Athens. Do you have any idea how much extra money they spent landing in Athens?? The extra fuel burnt taking off again and airport costs etc. if I owned the airline I would not stop the plane for them. They decided to travel to close to shabbos. I can understand if the flight got delayed by 5 hours. Then they should maybe feel obligated. But an hour delay is 100% normal and an emergency medical landing is something that unfortunately happens as well.

Phil Espo

El Al has to be blamed. Orthodox Jews are never to blame.

SREPW

ElAl has a long standing “agreement” never to fly on Shabbos.

DfromNY

Well said. People are always pointing fingers at everyone but themselves.

apl

Kol Mevaser reporting that there was 25 frum pax, and they got into an hotel for Shabbos

Ari

Couldn’t agree with you more Dan. It’s wrong on both sides; taking a flight on Erev Shabbos is a bad idea in general, and El Al was even worse to divert the flight to Athens instead of letting everyone off in Canada. Take notes Yidden: don’t take a flight on Erev Shabbos; especially one like this that is scheduled to land two hours before Shabbos. Honestly, I have no idea what these frum Yidden were thinking booking this flight.

Momo

Why didn’t they just stay in Canada If they see they’re not gonna make it

Dr. B. M. Nemon

The last time that I was supposed to fly El Al JFK-TLV, I was escorting a Jewish body (deceased).As my travel partner and I were waiting in line to board, we were informed that El Al would not carry THIS body because of unstated security concerns (“we don’t have to tell you”). We were forced to fly the following afternoon out of Newark with United, which we discovered a had a father and son, Cohanim, on board, because they were told by El Al that United doesn’t transport deceased to TLV out of EWR. We believe that the the real reason that El Al didn’t want to carry the body was because he was EXTREMELY heavy.

I won’t be flying El Al again, b’li neder. For my part, they can go BANKRUPT.

Mr. CC

Elal must have told them that all the flights from Newark don’t carry deceased, which meant all elal flights

Deals dealer

Which is true. They have for many years flight #28 that is recommended for Kohanim. It doesn’t make any sense Elal should send them to united…

Joe

Please comon they make money it’s not free

Shmuel Amsel

I never understood the people that do that, I recently had a simcha in Montreal during the winter (when shabbis starts at 4) the flights before 9 o’clock were to expensive so I didn’t go

I flew a few days later and what should have been a 4 hr journey from beginning to end was almost 7 hours (between waiting in the airport sitting on the plane waiting at runway waiting to land waiting for immigration …… ) And that doesn’t include the bumper to bumper traffic getting to my destination

If your flying on Friday give yourself 8-10 hrs leeway its shabbis givalt

frozy

If ua or dl did this you wouldn’t be calling it shameful. So what’s your beef with El AL that you have to call them out on this?

Carl M. Sherer

UA and DL don’t guarantee to not force you to be m’chalel Shabbos. If you fly UA or DL, you know you’re on your own and you plan accordingly.

Devorah Lederman

Ok. It happened. Let’s just learn from what happened and stop with the lashon hara. We weren’t designated as judges by Ribono shel Olam.

Good Shabbos!

What\'s good for the goose, is good for the Gander

Don’t be silly…this is how we learn from the situation, by making a fuss and calling out El Al on this. They follow DansDeals and take it seriously. It’s not Lashon Hara because it’s L’toeless and it’s a company, not an individual.
And oh, btw, they caused unnecessary Chillul Shabbos

Shaya

They should make you sign waiver if you book a flight so close to shabbos, that they arent stopping for you.

JB

Why should we expect a secular airline, to care more about Shabbos than religious Jews? Anyone that takes a flight that lands a few hours before Shabbos does not care about Shabbos.

Yehudis

Who do you think you are to make such a blatant judgmental statement? Most religious people that take such a flight, decide that should an emergency arise, they will remain in the country the flight landed in at a safe time before Shabbos and continue to their destination after shabbos. In this case, as Dan wrote, El Al did not allow the religious passengers to disembark in Gander.

JB

Simply because as a passenger you don’t have enough control to ensure that you will land before Shabbos. On top of that, you’re putting yourself in a situation where people in the destination country have to drop everything to prepare food for the people who didn’t care enough to take a better flight.

My rabbis told me it was assur to fly on Friday but I don’t think you need a rabbi to tell you that.

busy

El AL should have allowed them to leave plane in Canada, at least. That would have solved the problem!!

FL

As a travel agent I never put anyone on that flight. It’s ridiculous that it exists at all on Elal.There is no way to clear customs and retrieve luggage and arrive to your destination on time.

Mk

Depends on the destination.

Ava

I was booked on a US Air flight from PHL to TLV on a Thursday the day after Yom Kippur. The flight was delayed due to mechanical problems after we boarded and everyone got off & tried to reschedule their flights to either arrive in Israel before Shabbat or stopover somewhere for Shabbat and arrive Sunday morning before Sukkot. After complete pandemonium at PHL airport, the airline announced that everyoneshoukd get back on and the flight would arrive before Shabbat.
Doing the simple math of how long it takes to get airborne, fly, land and get our luggage, I figured there was no way we’d land before Shabbat or maybe be stuck in the airport for Shabbat. With so many people getting back on the flight with the promise of on time arrival, I was able to rebook for the Saturday night flight and spent Shabbat with friends outside Philadelphia who got me to the airport on time for my flight.
The flight did not get in in time for Shabbat and most of the people on board were stuck in the Airport. Chabad at the TLV airport was informed about the issue and made sleeping & food arrangements for those on this flight.
I don’t feel holier than thou, just used some common sense. After once getting home from early morning flight from California late on a summer Friday I don’t, if at all possible, fly on Friday.
That was USAir. El Al should not have flights that cut it so close to shabbat

What\'s good for the goose, is good for the Gander

I haven’t flown El Al in years. Average service, expensive fares and terrible frequent flier program.
But more than anything is their arrogance and cluelessness with regard to passengers and their needs.
This is typical tone-deaf El Al behavior unfortunately.

Carl M. Sherer

I live in Yerushalayim. This morning someone in my minyan said that he arrived on El Al at 5:18 pm from Toronto (scheduled arrival 3:00 pm, Shabbos in Jerusalem was 7:11), but even though he abandoned his luggage, due to traffic problems at the airport, he arrived home at 7:15. Please don’t take flights that arrive here too close to Shabbos unless it’s an emergency.

Jack out of the box

Just today in Hilchos Shabbos I was learning about אדם בהול על ממונו.

Sam

My sister was on this flight the last Friday and it was delayed, landed just about a hour before shabbat, she made it to Jerusalem with just 4 minutes before sunset.

If you look at this flights reputation it is always late, like all of Elal… I wouldn’t get on a elal plane after Wednesday afternoon and that’s being generous…

Mike

Seriously what’s the big deal? Why so much shame being thrown around for the airline or those who knowingly fly routes within a certain timeframe? Delays happen so what?

BBPAPA

Many years ago on El AL from JFK to TLV.
Delayed at gate due to snow removal/de-icing.
Eventually, captain told us JFK will allow us to takeoff in 45 min but TLV
told them not to takeoff since we would arrive to close to or on Shabbos.
We disembarked minus our checked luggage.
We were put on a bus to Manhattan and spent Friday and Shabbos in a hotel.
After Shabbos we were sent back to the airport for our flight.

notajew

The lesson here is clear: religion is nonsense!

aproudjew

do you have anything smart to say???

Ycohen

My sister who was stranded in Athens shared some details on the expected extremely disappointing experience which is described below.

El Al straight up lied to passengers when they were in Canada saying they had not enough time to get to TLV before shabbos but they will be landing in London with ample time before shabbos and provide accommodations to all that needed. Non-observant jews or non-Jewish passengers will have option to be booked with a another carrier to get them to Israel Friday evening.

Most passengers were informed officially only once they were on the way that they are not going to London but rather ATH and they will have no issues getting to their accommodations before shabbos. Upon arrival, the 747 would continue on to TLV on shabbos and will take only crew since no “passengers” are allowed to fly on shabbos. They provided two flights Friday evening on another carrier for non-observant passengers to continue on to TLV on shabbos.

Now what actually happened was this…the only hotel near the airport in Athens had only a few rooms to spare and as many religious Jews crammed into them as possible (4-5 rooms available). Others who preferred to have hotel vs staying in airport for shabbos were left with taking a bus on shabbos to a further hotel since they basically landed minutes before it started. Many passengers opted to just take flight back on shabbos because once they arrived they realized they were in for a miserable experience. Others stayed in terminal. It was going around that the reason for switching to ATH vs London was that they figured a shabbos in London would mean all 400+ passengers would want to stay in a hotel and cost a lot more money. Going to ATH with the knowledge that it lacked accommodations and is not as interesting of a place to explore like London many of the passengers would opt just to continue to TLV on shabbos later in the evening, which is what happened. In addition, the cost of flying the passengers from ATH to TLV also saves a lot of money.

My thoughts on the matter since everyone else seems to have a take on this – I am saddened that fellow jews on here have harsh critiques of the religious passengers who took this flight. Although I understand some have a sudden necessity to share opinions on the matter you can’t know for certain every individual circumstances that brought them to taking this flight (medical, family emergency…)so not right to judge them or anyone for that matter. El-Al as a carrier knows the shabbos restriction it must oblige by and maybe it was naive to think that they would create a flight schedule with enough time that would accommodate circumstances like this one. Furthermore, once they knew they had an issue they did not act in good faith and mislead many of the passengers in regards to how they planned on handling the situation. I am sure every religious person stranded has learnt their lesson after this experience.

I don’t blame El-Al for making a business decision and limiting its financial loss given it’s just that – a business after all. That being said, they shouldn’t be blindly trusted in the future (nor should anyone be) to be your trusted “religious” sensitive airline of choice. Perception by many is that El-Al is trusted to put religious sensitivity as a priority similar to its unique security measures that sets it apart. Clearly this is a misguided mistake. Many passengers on board felt helpless in the matter and if the airline wanted they could have provided better alternative options to its passengers or at the very least communicated better with passengers on the flight.

Ndina

I like the way we should not judge any passengers taking such a late flight, but we can have a whole post of judgement on elal.
No judgment is no judgment
If u don’t like elal, dont fly with them
If ur shomer shabbos dont book this flight
Dont make choices then blame everyone else.
As a passenger, u have zero control. Know this in advance and book accordingly
I like the way the passengers had no choice but to fly on this flight (what would they have done if this flight didnt exist?))) But elal had all the choices in the world!!!
Interesting take on things.

Frumfrequentflier

Many people have understood that el al commits to landing before candle
Lighting time in Tel Aviv. As such in worst case scenario he or she would need to spend Shabbat in Ben Gurien thereby not being a violation of Halacha …

Ycohen

Not “judging” Elal since it is a company and not a individual person so they have different responsibilities to themselves and to their consumers. As I mentioned I don’t blame them for ultimately making decisions that save themselves money. From the macro level, diverting for an ill passenger and accepting the cost of facilitating that is commendable and the right thing to do.
I do believe they accepted the restriction as a company to not “fly” on shabbos in order to gain confidence and capture a large portion of the religious market. Knowing religious people are a large portion of their customer base (by their own doing) and being familiar with stringent observant restrictions on shabbos they should have at the very least communicated better with the passengers or created a different option for passengers that did not wish to break shabbos (which there were many things that could have been done differently. This is just a reflection of a disappointing and unfortunate handling of the circumstances.

Shaul

If you wouldn’t fly on shabbos for a medical emergency or the like, then you shouldn’t fly Erev Shabbos so late. It’s not like there aren’t other flights on Thursday that land with more time to spare.

Ari

As an israeli, welcome americans to the way Israel treats us religious jews. They have no respect to the jewish law and no respect to ppl.Im expecting from a national jewish state company not just tto avoid חילול שבת but to help other jews not to be מחלל שבת, like you wrote for a few shekel they could not care less. El-Al is the worst company in terms of custmer service that iv seen,. Avoid yourself from flying with a company that encourage חילול השם.

Levi

Article posted on Arutz Sheva has the story a little differently
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/247552
“The plane, according to the report, continued to Athens while the religious passengers were put up in hotels in Canada.”

Ycohen

Staying in Canada was not offered or an option. Plane was never at a gate. Removed sick passenger and refueled along the runway.

RS

I am reluctantly writing as I do not usually join online conversations. I will not use any real names to preserve privacy. I recently moved with my family to Jerusalem and was in Boston for work. El Al cancelled my flight from Boston to Tel Aviv on Thursday so I ended up on 008 instead. There are three overarching points worth noting:

1. There were many people who seemed to be sincerely religious people and had legitimate reasons for flying so close to Shabbat including getting rebooked from cancelled flights, family celebrations, visiting the sick, etc. All had the goal of making to Israel in time for Shabbat and most probably knew that there was some risk of needing to spend Shabbat in a place other than their intended destination. That said, I don’t think any of them thought that El Al would leave them in Athens 5-10 minutes after candle lighting time.

2. There were many nice things worth noting in the spirit of hakarat hatov. The flight attendants, the staff at the Sofitel, and the people who banded together for Shabbat. See below for more details.

3. There are areas where El Al can improve and I fully expect that they will. A more careful understanding of Jewish law would have helped El Al realize that they should either not have flown onto Athens OR let people get off in Gander. Some commenters seem to think that El Al has no obligation vis-à-vis helping observant passengers. That may or may not be true insofar as its legal obligations are concerned, but I don’t think El Al wants to lose its observant Thursday passengers. I suspect this was a simple mistake that requires a mea culpa and an adjustment of policy.

4. Whether El Al should or should not carry passengers on Shabbat in this type of situation is debatable. But the resultant manifest chilul hashem cannot be ignored. El Al ended up flying the 747 without passengers to Israel and ferrying the passengers who wished to get home to Israel on one or two other airplanes (ostensibly operated by Jewish pilots). There was no net saving of work done on Shabbat through this rigmarole. Why was it done? To satisfy some of my coreligionists who value style and pretense over substance and rectitude. It is pretty hard for me to understand why El Al – given the circumstances – could not continue flying its passengers to Tel Aviv. In fact, it is worth a question to a qualified posek. The airline might be disinclined to stop for a medical situation that is not obviously urgent (as was the case here) if they know that they will need to fly 2-3 airplanes instead of one. This reminds me of the famous responsum of Rabbi Feinstein regarding a doctor returning by car from a hospital on Shabbat.

For more details of what happened, keep on reading below:

As has previously been reported, we were supposed to land at 5pm, which would have given us enough time to make it to our various destinations by Shabbat. But we got a late start out of JFK and then had to stop in Gander for a potential medical emergency. The passenger in question was not feeling well but it was not clear if it was an urgent situation. Ultimately, a doctor decided that it was better to get the passenger to a hospital and El Al complied. We were in Gander for a long time and were told that we were flying to Europe, which many of – maybe naively – interpreted to be Paris or London. Only when the plane began departure procedures, did they announce that we were heading to Athens to land before Shabbat.

The El Al flight crew was fantastic. None appeared to be halachically observant but they were compassionate and helpful. Eyal, Nurit, Loren, Liat, Eran, Isabel, and Michal to name a few were fantastic. They found me a bottle of wine, some rolls, and many snacks to get me through Shabbat. Kudos to them. At no point have I ever been disrespected for keeping Shabbat even though the flight attendants mostly are less traditional. They acted – as they always have – with the utmost professionalism.

The airplane doors opened in Athens just after candle lighting time and we quickly boarded a bus to the terminal. We managed to clear passport control right around the time that the sun was setting. El Al then told us that they had arranged for a hotel with rooms, food, and everything else we would need for Shabbat. Approximately sixty people deplaned to spend Shabbat in Athens (with a few later deciding that returning to the plane was a better bet). Some of us decided that going to stay at the airport rather than traveling to a hotel a few kilometers away from the airport where El Al had prepared Shabbat for us. Had we landed 20-30 minutes earlier, we would have gladly gone.

This group of approximately 20 people went to the Sofitel, which is located within the airport. We managed to get the last 5 rooms in the hotel with the help of some terrific staff including Sofia, Alexander, and a few others whose names now escape me. We fit as many people into the rooms as we could (given hotel rules and logistical constraints) and a few people ended up sleeping at the airport (in the lounge).

The hotel was very accommodating throughout Shabbat even though none of the staff had ever heard of Shabbat and few seemed to know about Judaism. They allowed us to book rooms without handling credit cards or cash or signing any papers, they brought extra beds, tolerated Kabbalat Shabbat and Kiddush in the lobby at 11pm, and turned a blind eye to the relatively spirited Shabbat that we conducted on the 8th floor of the Sofitel. We had wonderful minyanim, ate meals together, and celebrated Shabbat as best we could. El Al sent someone over to our hotel on Shabbat afternoon to tell us that they would send a 787 after Shabbat to pick us up and that is exactly what they did. We made it to Israel early Sunday morning.

To sum it all up, thank you to the great flight attendants of El Al, the El Al Athens station, the amazing staff at the Sofitel (highly recommended hotel), and the amazing group of people with whom I was privileged to spend Shabbat at the Sofitel. I hope that El Al can find a way to avoid this type of situation in the future and would suggest open and honest communication with the passengers and offering options that allow passengers to make sure they will always get to a hotel (wherever El Al needs to land) before Shabbat.

Shabbos

Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your experience and for clarifying the facts in an honest, but non judgemental way. Mimenu yiru vchen yaasu.

Zamm

this needs to be boosted to the main story

Mandy

I was also on this flight. The ElAl crew were amazing. The flight attendants were very hospitable, courteous, patient, caring. They kept offering drinks and food, even while on the ground in Gander. They answered questions and concerns. The captains kept us informed as the situation unfolded. The passengers were very well taken care of. The plan was to land in Athens, and quickly transport the religious passengers to the Sofitel hotel before Shabbat. The other passengers were given the option to stay in Athens for Shabbat, or to deplane and transfer to two Dun D’Or aircraft that were specifically flown to Athens to transport those passengers to Tel Aviv. As soon as LY 008 landed in Athens, all passengers were asked to remain seated, so those who were staying in Athens to observe the Shabbat could quickly deplane, and make it to the hotel in time for Shabbat. They were then rushed through passport control. The problem that was encountered, which took so long that Shabbat had already started, was that the ground staff realized that there were not enough hotel rooms. It took them a while to figure that out, and that was where things started to get disorganized and Shabbat had already begun. El Al really tried to help accommodate the Shabbat observant passengers, in an unusual and difficult situation. I really commend them for how they handled this difficult situation.
I also want to thank the amazing crew from this flight. They did an incredible job.

Elie

Seriously??? Do you realize how ridiculous that is–that no one bothered checking if there were hotel rooms available before implementing this brilliant plan???

Judah

I am not a rabbi but I travel a lot so I have asked many of these questions- if ELAl would have consulted with a rabbi who understands they could have saved them selves lots of money

From my understanding, this is comparable to sfinat byam ( boat that docks on Shabbat) that if the plane would arrive on Shabbat you would not be allowed to leave the airport because of tichum Shabbat, if the pilots were not Jewish it would have been much easier! Question are can you get on a plane that will arrive on Shabbat? So when the plane took off from Nyc there was no problem, but from Canada that’s we’re the problem starts, next question is weather the passengers were or were not allowed to get off and a what affect would if they did ? A bigger problem is that the plane when it landed in Athens to allow the religious people off created a bigger problem for everyone else on the plane, that the plane took off to Israel on Shabbat ( again ask your knowledgeable rabbi). For religious people it may have been better off to continue directly to Israel for them selves and concern for other passengers who may not be as observant in keeping Shabbat ( ask your qualified rabbi) .

As for the assumption of ELAls motivation, ( which I am not a fan of there back office) we need to be carful, as last weeks paraha of the Spy’s, they told the truth but they were overwhelmed by the negative that they could not see the positive!

Elie

That is all good and fine, but the fact is that El Al’s pilots are Jewish, so none of this applies. But you make a good point. In case of emergency, where one MUST fly on Erev Shabbos, given El Al’s behavior in such cases, one may be better off flying another airline so that in case of unforeseen circumstances, it’s not the end of the world if you arrive in TLV on Shabbos. (Needless to say, one must consult a rav before making such a decision!) Here, the confidence in El Al created a FAR greater problem–both in terms of the frum people getting stuck in an airport in ek velt and in terms of the massive chilul shabbos that resulted among the non-frum Jews. If the pilots were not Jewish, everyone could just continue on to Tel Aviv and either walk to Kfar Chabad from the airport (it’s very close) or spend Shabos in Ben Gurion where there’s a shul and they arrange food etc.

MT

Hi Dan! I suggest you post a survey question and see how many travelers prefer another airline over El Al. I think you’d be surprised by the outcome. You can then forward it to El Al.

Dave

There was a medical emergency. They had to stop in Newfoundland. Deal with it

Harry

I can deal with the need to land in Gander easily. What would have been said if, chas veshalom, the passenger had died because El Al refused to divert, citing the need to land in Ben Gurion before Shabbos? When a plane diverts for medical reasons it is generally not possible for other passengers to deplane unless the crew would time out by continuing to fly or another similar reason. “I don’t want to go on because of Shabbos” isn’t one of those reasons. Whoever decided on the Athens landing, instead of another European destination, made an error of judgment that cost El Al a great deal of money, 787 specially flown in for example, and tarnished its reputation amongst a certain sector of the Jewish people. I bet many of the secular Israelis on the plane were more than happy to get back to Israel with less of a delay than landing in London would likely have caused. I personally disagree that a day in London is more exciting than a day in Athens but I wouldn’t want to spend any night and day in the same clothes as the previous night and day, especially when I had been in a stressful sweaty situation on a flight. There are usually two sides to every story and even if we Shomrei Torah u’mitzvos Yidden only appreciate one side, it is good to know what the other side is.

Elie

Who suggested refusing to divert?!?!?! That’s a straw man.

ai

re earlier post
Apologies. Incident involving a refusal to sit next to a female causing almost 2 hour delay occurred on the earlier flight that night.

Jill Sadowsky

I also think that very observant people should not fly close to shabat. I have often wondered why these same people don’t exert pressure on El Al to provide planes meant only for the religious community which will also avoid the many unpleasant exchanges when a religious man refuses to sit next to a woman.
His options now are to pay extra and book way ahead to ensure a seat next to one of his community.
Or, to charter a special plane for groups of like-minded people.

I loved flying El Al when I made Aliyah in 1963, but for years have made a point of flying United or Air Canada. Shabat Shalom to all.

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