El Al Has A New CEO After Just One Year; Here’s My Advice To Her

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Last week, El Al CEO Avigal Soreq announced that he would be stepping down after just 1 year at the helm.

It didn’t take long to replace him. Earlier today, El Al named Dina Ben-Tal Ganacia as the new CEO. She’s El Al’s first female CEO and has been with the airline for 14 years.

It’s a shift in strategy for El Al, which has typically hired Israeli Air Force veterans for the CEO position, like Soreq. He had previously been COO of Delek US and will now return to Delek US to be CEO after his year at El Al.

If I had to pick an airline CEO, I’d go with someone like former Continental CEO Gordon Bethune, or his successor Larry Kellner, to run the airline. Bethune was universally beloved by employees, shareholders, and passengers and his book on how he turned around Continental from a bankrupt basket case to the most respected airline in the industry is eye-opening. Kellner was hand-picked by Bethune and continued that legacy and paid close attention to frequent flyers, though he was forced out when he refused to merge with United, an airline that Bethune once took flak for calling “HIV-positive”.

But while Soreq didn’t have commercial aviation bona-fides, he told me that he was a United 1K and had a Southwest Companion Pass, which he loved. He understood loyalty, maybe we had what to work with. 😀

During his first week on the job last January, Soreq asked me what I thought his top 3 priorities should be. Here is what I told him and much of the same advice still applies today:

  • Burn Matmid to the ground and start over.
    • Yes, I understand the program makes money in Israel, but with a revamped loyalty program denominated in regular miles and competitive elite status levels, it can make orders of magnitude more money across the globe, as has been demonstrated to the tunes of billions of dollars by many highly successful airlines. I suggested that having someone familiar with US loyalty programs working in tandem with the Israeli team would be a winning combo.
    • As part of fixing Matmid, create a US co-brand credit card with a value proposition that makes sense for customers and the airline. Pro tip: This isn’t it.
  • Secure a spot in an airline alliance.
    • In the past, an El Al CEO once claimed that Anti-Semitic airlines won’t allow El Al into an alliance. The truth is that El Al just needs to have something of value to offer an alliance. In order to accomplish this, the airline needs to lobby the state of Israel to allow for secure transit so that a passenger can fly to Tel Aviv on say, AA or Delta, and seamlessly connect to an El Al flight to the Seychelles without going through Israeli immigration.
  • Fix the El Al website.
    • It’s embarrassing that the flag carrier for the Start-up nation is woefully behind other airline websites. Passengers should be able to easily change and cancel flights (with waived fees for airline schedule changes) and check live flight status and inbound flight status, and so much more without resorting to trying to reach live help. The website refresh also made it nearly impossible to find saver award tickets, which still needs to be fixed. And that’s ignoring the persistent bugs and error messages.
  • Some of the other things I mentioned were:
    • Improve customer service and corporate culture to improve brand perception and loyalty.
    • Improve mehadrin food offering and make that a reason for people to fly on El Al.
    • Create more loyalty partnerships and enable earn and burn capability online.
    • Fix the airline’s reliability problems.
    • Match US airlines in permanently removing change fees.
    • Looking into merging with Arkia. (The ball started rolling on this in October).
    • Create a solution for davening onboard. (This is now being trialed).
    • Figure out a solution for Charedi seat assignments to avoid a Dr. Dao situation. (A Daf Yomi section?)
    • Look into switching the Miami flight to Fort Lauderdale for better access to local market and with additional feed from JetBlue. Plus that avoids competing head to head with dominant American Airlines in Miami.
    • Rather than fighting a bruising battle with United in their hometown of Chicago, look into challenging them in the capital with service to more convenient Baltimore compared to Dulles.
    • Improve pricing of flights including codeshare to entice people to connect to El Al.
    • Look into Thursday evening flight times to avoid Shabbos diversions.

It’s a laundry list of items, but I wish the best of luck to the new CEO in tackling it! What advice would you give the new CEO?

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64 Comments On "El Al Has A New CEO After Just One Year; Here’s My Advice To Her"

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HAS Advantage credit card was a very good option for many years. Many thousands of people took advantage of their rewards programs and flew to Israel just by referring many people and utilizing their double points program to accrue easy points which transferred over into Matmid…
Yes I know Dan, it didn’t match up to some other rewards options that you champion but the average cc user, it was a very good option
I personally know many satisfied people who used it…


Didn’t they go out of business?


Very good advice to El Al. Instead I would nominate Daniel Eleff to be CEO. Failing that, let Jet Blue manage their operations. Oh, not a good idea? So, merge with the cousins to the east, Emirates and company. El Al has no hope. A Tel Aviv taxi drivers knows more about customer service. At least you can yell at him from the back seat, unlike El Al that makes you holler at them on WhatsApp.


I would start with doing a name change. The elal name/logo will always click in people’s brains as a bad experience…


I always thought that showing the first name of the passenger in the seat selection map can solve the chareidi seat problem, and not get in the way with the gender equality world we live in or privacy protection.

Elal Platinum

Why is that not a problem of privacy protection? You cant display any personal info of the passenger.


I would actually try to get a code share with UA, LY needs a codeshare partner in the United States and this hamlet arrangement with AA/Alaska and JetBlue that is on and off, provides no value.

Elal Platinum

I think the #1 priority should be customer service (hire american reps not israeli broken english speaking ones) #2 Fix the website asap. I think right now its better not to have one, its a embarrasment to israel. Though airline alliance would be great, creating a real frequent flyer program with REAL benefits would be better.

Mia flyer

Mia to fll makes no sense ! Fll has no lounge network and has far less Intl connections


Your MIA-FLL idea is great!

uri kad

Burn the airline down and totally start over and revamp EVERYTHING starting from the most important thing: Customer satisfaction. The people that interact with clients (flight attendants/Check in counter people) have to be all fired and rehired on condition they fulfill one promise; help the customers out instead of creating issues for every last one of them

The pro Yeshiva guy

As a yeshiva guy of many yrs in Israel one of the ways I learn to love and hate airlines is if they get all up tight if your suitcase is over weight by few pounds they make you pay 100$ ….. seriously I just paid for a ticket is my two pounds extra such a problem! I think anything under 5lbs should be over looked especially for many flying to Israel that are bringing American goodies back with them
Suitcase weighing is always stressful…. make it easier


Just flew Elal yesterday with my family from tlv to ewr on ly27 head of crew was the rudest I have seen.
Threatened in Hebrew to take away my 3 year olds passport if his mask wasn’t positioned perfectly. So when my neighbor translated what she said I got up asked for her employee id number and name. And told her to expect a call from headquarters. She became apologetic and we had a very nice flight thereafter.
United will be superior with professionalism and courtesy. ELAL’s culture change is of essence before anything in my opinion.


You are lucky she even gave you her ID. Usually they wont even tell you or lie


Until TLV becomes a connecting airport, there is little incentive for El Al to set up a FF program that focuses on making money outside of Israel.

The vast majority of people who fly El Al regularly are Israelis flying O&D to one airport. It’s not like BA where people all over the world use them to fly to other places in the world, even if they’re not going to the UK.

There are problems that need to be fixed for El Al to have a (globally) profitable FF program aside from just having a program that emulates BA or United


As warren buffet once said.
With a company with a bad reputation and a management with a good reputation the company’s will win.




Change the stupid “on hold” music and message when calling Elal. They should use it to torture terrorists in prison. How about having a “we’ll call you back” option so ppl don’t spend hours getting (And failing) thru!

Elal Platinum

They do have a call back option for frequent flyers when calling the vip line (i think there is only a Israeli number for this) but last time i did it they called me back 3 days later!


Their Israeli number has a callback option for everyone (It’s required by law)


Dan, I quote from this article: “I suggested that having someone familiar with US loyalty programs working in tandem with the Israeli team would be a winning combo”.
Dan, would you accept the position of offered?

Elal Platinum

If Dan runs Elal, all of us wont be able to get any mile hacks etc. He simply knows the game…


Dan, really excellent advice and pointers. 1. Although I personally don’t care which gender I sit next to, I certainly respect and support the idea of gender selected seating. The unfortunate difficulty with that concept in the world today is that one can “identify” as any gender they want, including non-gender. That’s something to consider, and practically impossible to prevent. 2. Baltimore- great idea! I don’t live in Balti, so no bias from me- but I believe Baltimore is a much stronger Jewish market than Northern Virginia, also capturing the northern DC Jewish suburbs, while also grabbing some from Philly whom would rather avoid EWR. 3. FLL rather than MIA. I’m originally from Hollywood (5 minute drive to FLL). I believe South Florida is happy to have either of the 3 airports to have direct to TLV. However, as you noted, it’s beneficial for connecting traffic. 4. Avoid Orlando and Vegas— not enough there to support it. 5. I’ll ask about Mexico City? Would that work? Has it ever been attempted? Mexico City has a large Jewish community, and sizable affluent Christian population. 6. Connecting traffic in TLV to other destinations should be attempted.


Dan please propose a philadelphia-tlv nonstop option




Provide Charedi videos (Grovais male only etc) videos in addition to Daf Yomi shiurim and two music tracks, this will greatly reduce the congregating in alleys etc,

I cannot understand why they have not done this until now.


WOW, you should charge for this great business consultancy.


Who said he isn’t….?

Chaya Malka

Regardless of how you feel about a business, calling them “HIV-Positive” is deeply disturbing and wrong.


i think everyone should be forced to fly elal so when they get to Israel they are somewhat acclimated to the horrible customer service that they will receive there.


I sure hope you got a hefty consultation fee for your meeting with Soreq. Every point is spot on


When you’re this good at airline consulting, you shouldn’t be doing it for free. That’s probably why they don’t listen to you. Corporations respect what they pay for.


Is LY allowed by the Israeli government to have a non-Israeli (citizen/resident) as its CEO?

LY needs a better frequent flyer program to try to get travelers to become more captive customers.

a frum yid

Changes needed.

Double flight capacity to USA on Mosei Shabbos
Double flight capacity from USA on Thursdays with no arrivals in TLV past noon
Join Star Alliance at all costs.

New Baggage Policy Required:

All fares Include two (2) free checked bags up to 70 pounds each (Jews travel heavy, its a fact)
One extra large carry-on per person.

Exempted carryon items that DO NOT count as part of your carry-on allowance;

◦ Hat box(es)
◦ Shtreimel box
◦ Tallis Tfillin bag(s)
◦ Sheitel box(es)
◦ Diaper bags
◦ Items placed in a shopping bag from an approved retailer in Boro Park, Williamsburg,
Lakewood, Monsey or Monroe.

** YoYo and Noona Strollers may board the aircraft and can be stored in the overhead

Aircraft Features:

◦ Dedicated minyan area with a permanent Sefer Torah aboard all flights.
◦ Nusach Sfard Minyanim at cruising altitudes with minyan times posted at time of
◦ Fabric Mechitza Curtains with ceiling velcro attachments onboard all aircraft, certain
rows to be dedicated for either men or women.
◦ Shomer Shabbos flight attendants
◦ Free-Wifi with unlimited WhatsApp calling and voice messaging so you can talk the
whole flight.
◦ Ability to book rows with no television or entertainment.
◦ (2) baby feeding rooms on all aircraft with a Large diaper changing facility.
◦ Optional mask policy.

Food & Beverage Options:

◦ Variety of J&J, Golden Flow, and New Square Cholov Yisroel Milk offered on all flights.
◦ Reisman’s baked goods available for preflight purchase at boarding area and onboard.
◦ Chulent and Kugel available for purchase on all Thursday night flights.


That’s a long wish list. Purim is over. Now pass me over the herring and Tam Tams!


Simple change the name to ELAF!!

seasoned flyer

I wish ELAL lots of luck going forward, the real people in charge these days are a bunch of Amacher’s with practically no Aviation experience whatsoever.
their loyalty program did work for many years i think for staters they should get rid of the expiration date of the miles expiring especially being that you can’t transfer anymore from AMEX. Crew they are no worse than United AA or Delta you can have a good and bad flight with any of those airlines which i have personally experienced and ELAL % is not higher than the others. i agree with Dan on the Gordon Bethune he really had a vision.
ELAL needs to get people that really understand this business not by talk buy experience and they are totally not going in the Right direction in terms of that. the new owner’s attention is good but not being advised correctly.


my son a yeshiva bocher is concerned about the temptations of what is available on the in- flight screens and what his next seat is displaying on his screen. there are several suggestions he wants to offer. firstly if he could arrange to sit next to other yeshiva bocherim this would provide a kosher next seat and an embarrassment to watch something inappropriate.


Your “son” should perhaps speak with a Rav, frum psychotherapist, or a school Rebbe about this issue. I once learned that one isn’t a Talmud Chochum based on how he resides inside a Bais Medrash, but ultimately what makes the person is how they are outside the world. If one acts, talks, eats, or dresses like the “nations of the world” when outside of yeshiva/shul/kollel, then I’ll say bluntly that it was by-in-large a waste of time spending that time in yeshiva. It’s a strong mussar, but if you think you’ll act inappropriate because you’ll look more at Betty White’s exposed hair on your seat-mate’s 6″ screen than the seforim brought on flight, then you have a long journey of self-improvement with Rabbonim and therapists. Best of luck!

World Traveler

This is nonesense. I don’t think his concern is “Betty White’s exposed hair”. You should see the kind of things people watch. I think it’s noble that he is concerned that he might glance over at Dirty Dancing and have teivos. But unfortunately, Israeli airline or not, it is an airplane and you gotta control yourself. Open a sefer or take a nap, and do your best not to look over if you’re concerned.


It’s an interesting thought, but probably won’t happen. I think a more practical solution that would have other benefits would be installing privacy filters over all the screens as is often done in offices. This limits the viewing angles to directly in front of the screen. Not only good for yeshiva bochrim who don’t want to inadvertently see what’s on the next screen, but also good for protecting children from seeing what their parents don’t want them to (not only from a religious standpoint). There’s also the added benefit of blocking out a lot of the light from the screen so it’s less disturbing for neighbors trying to sleep.


What everyone is saying about their customer service I think the bottom line is, Israeli mentality is that the customer has the privilege of buying from my store and that if you don’t like my service go somewhere else.
In America the mentality is that the business has the privilege of having you as a customer and therefore the business will try to accommodate you.

Firing all the employees isn’t going to help, maybe American customer service training will help somewhat.


I’m just wondering out loud if there’s a possibility that the Israeli government is reluctant to allow ElAl/Ben Gurion to become an international hub widening the diversity of travelers passing through. It’s a potential security nightmare for them, with so much more to vet etc.

Your thoughts Dan?


FLL instead of MIA would be great. I detest MIA with a passion that burns deep…

Other great suggestions – probably won’t happen, but hey maybe


Hi regarding to El Al airlines I just had a very bad experience I’ve booked a flight for today April 12 and returning April 28 and basically they changed my return flight from Israel to JFK without any email notification And also my flight today they change the aircraft I had two seats next to each other Basically the aircraft El Al is using today for the flight became priority seating they wanted more money so I called them and I ask them if there’s anything we could do so all they tell you is I’m so sorry with that broken English and anything you tell them you wanna compensation or something it’s not this department I waited on the phone for over an hour and a half and then you have the Israeli that picks up and just knocks off the phone call I always knew El Al is hard to deal with but do you know so disgusting and at least the minimum send me an email that the changing the airport and it I don’t have seats something show some interest
I’m flying United last couple years specially throughout Corona and I had several problems with the flights and it always was there to help me and always worked out amazing and I never had such a thing not getting emails or something like that for any changes so I’d like to know if there’s any way I could get some sort of compensation so if you could please let me know