Is It Fair For Schools To Force Students To Pay Cash For Tickets On An Airline With No Active Flights And $400MM In Outstanding Flight Refunds?

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Earlier this week I shared my advice on which airline students hoping to study in Israel for the year should use for maximum flexibility, given that things can rapidly change in the current situation. The best option now is unquestionably United.

Yesterday I wondered why some schools are insisting on having their students fly on El Al.

Several readers sent me this letter from a seminary in Israel, I’ve removed the name of the school, as my responses are general in nature.

 

“Dear Parents and Students,

We are aware that many of you have a lot of questions about what comes next. The rules are literally changing by the day if not the minute. As we try to process all this, we want to clarify and not confuse. Some parents reached out to us about the flights to Israel. As we said previously, please don’t book a flight. The start date is not yet final. As the rules for quarantine become more apparent, we are trying to analyze the best way to keep everyone happy and sane in a 2-week quarantine. The rules right now require a 6-person unit within the dorm. We currently are securing new apartments to make sure that we can fully accommodate everyone. We are also thinking about how Yom Tov will work this year. As you can see, there is a lot to process on our end before the girls arrive.

There has been a lot of talk about why we have a group flight. There was a Dansdeals post yesterday that made everyone wonder why the Yeshivas and seminaries use El Al. I feel a need to address this. The goal of this blog is to help people save money and use credit card points. Who doesn’t love a deal? El Al has a weaker points program and that makes it a constant target of Dansdeals. But there are many considerations here. We have no allegiance to El Al. We don’t make any money on your ticket, regardless of whether you pay $1800 for a ticket or $800. We would prefer that you pay less for your flight! Dansdeals is incorrect when stating that students had useless tickets. Any student that did not panic and leave on the infamous charter flight was able to rebook for free on El Al at a later date. Even those students that stayed until June when El Al officially had no flights were able to fly home on El Al. This month El Al has been assigning anyone with an El Al confirmed ticket to United. My daughter and her family flew into the US yesterday for a wedding with United, but they used their El Al ticket. 

We had seats for students on United two weeks ago, but the travel agent did not want our students to commit to a non-refundable ticket. At the time we did not know how the girls were getting into the country. I could not ask you to purchase such a ticket. That ticket is no longer available at the cheaper price (one way is over $1400!) We are waiting to see if El Al will publish its fares for the end of August and then we will compare the group flight price versus booking each ticket individually. Group flights come with an open return and an extra bag, but they are usually more expensive. We will do the math and get back to you. We need everyone to come into Israel at the same time so we can start quarantine together. We should be able to accommodate various cities like Chicago and LA to get to the same flight. To do this we need you to use Takeoff Travel. We has used Takeoff Travel for 25 years, and they are honest people. They have taken a financial beating during this pandemic and they are going to make a minimal fee on your ticket. They will not be accepting credit cards. Why not? Because if anyone decides to cancel participation on a non-refundable ticket and reverses the credit card charges, the travel agent will be responsible for the cost of the ticket. We are also open to changing the starting date if it involves a less expensive plane ticket.

We are expecting news of more flights to be released in the coming days.

Thanks again for your patience. May we all be zoche to be in Eretz Yisroel by this Tisha B’Av for a Yom Tov.

 

First of all, if schools would like my help with questions, advice, or help locking down flights, I’m always happy to do my best!

My problems with El Al stretch well beyond Matmid, many airlines have weak frequent flyer programs.

1. The biggest issue with El Al this year is that they are holding onto $400 million of customer funds for flights that El Al cancelled. That’s a loss that many consumers simply can’t afford, especially now with so many people out of work.

On the other hand, US airlines have given back every penny for flights that they cancelled. That’s a big incentive to stick to US carriers under these circumstances.

El Al is not alone in their behavior during the pandemic. I called out Air Canada in May and in July for their policies. And then I got into a back and forth with the Canada Transportation Agency that continued afterward for days. I wouldn’t recommend booking on Air Canada during this pandemic for the same reason.

2. El Al shut down in March and has not had regularly scheduled flights since then.

Students rushed to book seats home as the situation in March was very scary and people wanted to get their kids home. A school telling parents not to panic, in the midst of the greatest global upheaval of our lifetimes, isn’t going to stop parents from doing what they need to do to get their child home safely. Indeed, there were many stories of stranded passengers with zero commercial flights operating in countries across the globe.

The problem was massively exacerbated because El Al cancelled nearly all of their flights in March, despite there being massive demand at the time from Tel Aviv to the USA, with most flights selling out. That move forced students who wanted to fly home right away to spend a small fortune on charter flights and many wound up throwing away their return flights.

El Al then stopped all flying, though they did run some one-off flights since then and allowed students to return on those in June, but many people did not want to be away from their family during those months.

3. El Al has indeed been rebooking some passengers holding July tickets onto United, but they did not do that for people with cancelled flights in March, April, May, or June. Nobody can say for how much longer they will rebook tickets on United or what will happen if United flights are full and they can’t move passengers over to them.

4. As I wrote in the post, Delta and United tickets are fully flexible if booked by July 31st. You can cancel your United flight at anytime and get a voucher that anyone can use for at least 2 years from the time that they cancel their flight. You can also change your return dates for free. If Delta or United cancel a flight they provide a full cash refund.

Many people booked bargains on United flights before they started filling up, with the worst case scenario of having a United voucher for the full cash value paid, that can be used for the next 2 years.

Many schools have given a specific date or window for their students to arrive.

If schools are open to changing their start date, then there are still plenty of inexpensive flight deals and mileage deals that can be found without needing to charter an expensive flight.

5. There are many travel agents in a bad situation due to the global pandemic and I’m sure most are perfectly honest. It’s very sad and unfortunate that they are stuck in the middle of this mess, but many businesses are suffering this year.

Forcing students to use a travel agent seems unfair to me, but forcing them to pay in cash for their tickets is unconscionable.

Paying in cash means that you lose the ability to redeem points for the purchase and you lose all of the protections that credit cards provide, including trip cancellation insurance, trip interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, lost luggage insurance, baggage delay insurance, travel accident insurance, medical and dental insurance, emergency evacuation insurance, and more.

And of course credit cards also have dispute resolution. Many DansDeals readers only got a refund on their El Al tickets because of the ability to dispute the charge.

Over the years, I’ve received countless emails from readers thanking me for opening their eyes to the world of miles so that they could afford to send their kids away to yeshiva and seminary.

I certainly understand why a travel agent would want to be paid in cash to avoid being caught in middle of a dispute between the passenger and the airline, but this is unfair to force on students, especially in a year where El Al has cancelled so many flights and not provided a refund. The entire risk of having a cancelled flight is being shifted from the airline to the passengers.

That being said, if travel agents just pass through a charge to the airline, they are not being held responsible for COVID-19 cancelled flight disputes.

If a school is insisting students book travel on El Al, with no credit card to protect them and currently no active El Al flights or operations, at the very least they should give parents written confirmation that the school will guarantee any funds that are lost due to their decision.

Should Schools Be Forcing Parents To Pay Cash And Fly El Al to Attend School?

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145 Comments On "Is It Fair For Schools To Force Students To Pay Cash For Tickets On An Airline With No Active Flights And $400MM In Outstanding Flight Refunds?"

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ted onig

I think this is a prime example of the farce that yeshiva/Seminary in Israel has become. You must do it our way or not at all. Pay up front with no guarantees and no benefits.

The year in Israel is astronomical in cost. 25k to start. Then phones, clothing, airfare, spending money, parents visiting once or twice, AND the yeshivas / Seminary don’t even feed the kids on Shabbos! you end up paying close to 50 grand so you can have your kids become homeless and beggars every Shabbos.

And then, the teachers/Rebbeim have the nerve to denigrate the parents who beg borrow and steal to afford yeshiva/Sem, and call the USA “shmutz Laaretz”!

I think we should use this opportunity to end the madness of “the year in Israel” for the kids.

Z

Schmutz laaretz! Lol never heard that one

mileagejunkie

Give your kids the real experience, send them to an Israeli Yeshivah, and save a load of money.

Mr. CC

“Give your kids the real experience, send them to an Israeli Yeshivah, and save a load of money.”
+1

EB

You seriously think Israeli schools don’t charge “out of country” rates? Wake up!

mileagejunkie

You’re still saving a lot. Most Europeans do just that.

philip

Very well said!

Yehudah

Absolutely correct. And they don’t want to refund any of the tuition for room and board and activities that were not provided in the last third of the year.

R

They took that example from US Colleges!

Joe

Truly an ohr lagoyim

Nechemia

I totally agree with you! I think it’s become a business for seminaries in Israel. Let’s keep the kids home!

mileagejunkie

“The goal of this blog is to help people save money and use credit card points.”
Are they trying to say that this is the only extent of your knowledge? LOL

Shmooger

And the goal of a seminary is what?
Makes you wonder…

mileagejunkie

Help people spend their money? Shh they are clearly experts!

Alyssa

The school should allow people to make reservations on the group flight. Or the agency should take Credit cards. With everything up in the air it is really bad for them not to

Das

If a travel agent doesn’t want to take the risk of being caught in a dispute with El Al… don’t force parents to book El Al flights. Unbelievable that this is even a conversation. I’ll remember to read into how seminaries behaved today when sending our daughter in a few years…

Shmooger

If a school requires somebody to arrive only on a specific flight, this may be a violation of anti-trust law. It could be very costly for the school to get out of. Google had the same issue even though they were not charging any money. They were fined a few billion EUR.

Steve Solomon

Oy , the Jews of America have imbibed the American Kool Aid for so long. Your anti trust concerns pale by comparison with the real issues of trying to get Yeshivas and Sems open this year. Collective compromises in the interests of the Klal are more important now than the rights & benefits of the individual. Think Responsibility vs Rights!

Bu!lShi!ter

right…. responsibility for travel agencies ripping and shirking from responsibility

yair

you’d have a very difficult time convincing anyone that a school has market power, which is a necessary condition for an antitrust case.

Zoolander

Seminary costs are more inflated than Tesla stock! It’s a total racket and the administrators are taking advantage of the parents. Enough!

Shmooger

@Dan, The entire seminary letter makes no sense at all. Is it written plainly based on emotion.

Sam

4% of poll responders either run a seminary or are travel agents.

Shmooger

Or 4% of all Poll responders respond very quickly. that number might go down to 0% soon

Zoolander

Or they misread the question, or they misclicked.

Simcha

Or they disagree with you.

Fafa123

To be fair, not all schools are like this. My daughter’s seminary is using a travel agent that takes credit cards and promised not to have any charges until the situation is straightened out. I originally planned to send her on a points flight but switched her to the group flight in the off chance that people would be quarantined, by flight, in a quarantine hotel (this has not been the system but I can imagine this happening). I want her to be with people she knows.

Chaim

Can someone please compile names of schools that are part of this racket?

rivka sokoloff

How can I confirm that an Elal late march flight was canceled? I need documentation.

Shmooger

Flightradar24.com
Do the free trial, you can go back 1 year

Shmooger

Also for those getting cheap tickets, THY is beginning to land in EWR 4 times weekly beginning 8/21.
Excellent move.

raphael fishman

I think that this school official is trying to save face,

clearly the whole idea of taking elal hasn’t been thought thru with all the knowledge of whats been transpiring over this unprecedented time.

with that said I feel that if you would like to charter then maybe do it with another airline like delta or united, ha maybe even charter the wow airlines plane thats been sitting by ewr all this time.

but you would say that if they did elal then maybe since their hurting it would be more economical.

In conclusion Elal would love it they’ll take money and given the past events no flight would be flown they make money.

In all honesty the schools should become one union and consult with you @dan

Joe

If the schools weren’t getting a kickback then they wouldn’t care how you arrive.

In Israel the taxi driver routinely gets kickbacks for taking tourists to shops. It’s part of the culture. The school denying they get anything is just calling attention to the fact that they are getting.

Sharon

Did the letter say the school is forcing girls to take El Al? I read this letter and it said they almost booked United. It also said they are still looking for the cheapest option. How do you safely and securely get an entire school into Israel at the same time for quarantine? Should everyone book their own ticket? What chaos would that be? The goal of the school is to get their students, that willingly and knowingly want to go to that school, to arrive safely according to the ever-changing rules of Israel. It is not to debate whether El Al has better refund policies than another airline. Not every parent has the credit card that guarantees all the protections Dan has enumerated. For a small fee, you can purchase a travel insurance policy that will cover these potential losses without destroying a frum travel agent’s livelihood. The schools are trying to bring these kids to learn Torah and they are not trying to cheat anyone. Putting this to a vote, one which is really not the issue since this school may not even fly El Al, is really just sensationalism.

Shmooger

Read the letter and Try to see how many different ways the writer tried saying blah blah blah

Shmooger

The schools were suddenly put into the spotlight and we’re not ready to be dumped into hot water like this. @dan brought up the idea and people have opinions toward it. Don’t forget, people come to seminary not only from the United States, they’re coming from all over. Do they all need to meet at lamp post in Borough Park and begin the journey from there? The story is not to Rosy as it sounds to you

U need to b smart

The goal of the school is to make money. Learning is a side benefit that some take advantage of. Most everyone is suffering some financial setback at this time – WHY SHOULD SEMINARIES BE PROTECTED? DID EVEN ONE, ONE OF THEM CONTACT ANY PARENTS TO ASK ABOUT THEM, OR IF THEY NEEDED ANY ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, OR A LOWER TUITION BILL?!?! They are finding out that they, too, are subject to the laws of supply and demand. And right now, perhaps for the first time, it’s a buyer’s market.

Dan is the man and I am a fan

Well said

Ari

I can’t speak for all seminaries but yes tuition scholarships are available.

EB

People who say “the goal of a yeshiva/seminary is too make money” are either poorly educated in business, poorly educated in Yiddishkeit, or both. Don’t you think if that was the whole ruse they could find a less time-intensive way to make money which doesn’t require all the after-hours time and energy they dedicate day and night so your children will grow up with better manners than you?
Seriously. Why so many negative comments here? If you have a problem paying for school, I’m sorry; but don’t try to character assassinate and put-down all Yeshivas and seminaries because of your specific gripe with an isolated issue. And until you’re ready to do a better job, perhaps a little gratitude and realization that they are working hard to provide your children an education; only so you can hide behind an anonymous user name and take cheap shots at people sacrificing basic comforts to provide your children a basic foundation (which some people here may not even be providing for their children). At the very least, think about the upcoming Tisha B’Av and hold back your stinging criticism!

Mebs

@Sharon, which sem do you own?…

Ari

I know the school as my daughter will be attending. You make valid points however to demand cash when it’s a real struggle to pay up front that kind of money and yes not every credit card has all those benefits but most credit cards have some and to make someone pay more for something that is free I have a problem with that.

Bu!lShi!ter

good for you, do not let these monsters eat you

Srulky

Poll says it all!

Shmooger

@Dan Question.

You probably know the numbers better than anybody else. Would 6% (based on poll results) of all students traveling to yeshiva or cemetery be enough to make a group flight?

(Make the schools feel good that they could make some money off this!)

C1sarena

I think that should have read seminary and not cemetery ‍♀️

KSMH

I’ve posted on DDF, what some schools did, sending kids home from Israel to the US was totally wrong, they chartered a flight and forced the kids to take that only option at a crazy cash price.

I have a relative that had a confirmed flight the following day but was coerced and harassed by her seminiry “HANHALAH” to take the confirmed ELAL flight for the crazy cash sum…

They claim to care so much about our kids that they much enforce such strict rules, yet when a child wants to leave a day later in midst of major turmoil they can’t find a way to accommodate or even let the parent take responsibility?

The schools that charge crazy tutions, that claim to educate out kids in a certain “torah” way…, do we really want “that way”? this is what they do when its comfortable for them. force parents that are paying 20k+ a year to pay another 1K plus for a flight that might not even happen because “My daughter and her family flew into the US yesterday for a wedding with United, but they used their El Al ticket” .

The letter this school sent is just so wrong and poorly written on so many levels that the poll here clearly reflect that no one would trust their narrative of events and actions that should follow.

Why don’t they just give everyone a 1-2 window at which they must arrive?

ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!!! and their comfort! They clearly are worried for their 25Yr travel agent.

Do you want your kids to get such an education?

If your kids cant get his/her *** over to israel on their own without being Mommied then maybe have them stay in the USA.

Dan is the man and I am a fan

Your words have so much truth to them I almost cried reading them. Being a yid is first and foremost about loyalty to hashem and shulchan aruch, loyalty to community norms and keeping up with the Cohens and latest fakery has taken precedence to our sorrow. TIME TO REEVALUATE RABBOISAI

Joe

Shulchan aruch is for baalei baatim. Anyone in klei kodesh is exempt from at least choshen mishpat.

janice

The problem with allowing a long window for the kids to arrive is that the quarantine must be done by arrival date according to the rules that have been set forth. The yeshiva my son is going to gave us the day that they need to arrive. They suggested the group flight might be easier, but stated clearly that no one was required to take the group flight as long as we could arrive on the required day.

The tight arrival window is required by the rules set by the MOH to allow the groups of 6 to quarantine together, even if not from the same location. It also allows for the students to join into larger groups at the end of the 14 days. If someone comes later, they will not be able to quarantine with the group or the whole group will have to restart the time…

Like I said above, our school has been very open about the situation and only made suggestions, not requirements. If your school has not shared their plans with you, I suggest you either get them or consider another program.

Sharon

The quarantine, Dan, is not for the flight. The students must be accompanied by the school on a chartered private bus to the dorm that has been approved by the Ministry of Health and quarantined for 2 weeks in 6 person units that cannot cross-contaminate. No one can come later or the entire group has to restart the count for quarantine.

U need to b smart

So instead of doing the sensible thing, like creating a 1 week window for students to arrive, so they can all begin quarantine together at the END of that week, ( for a possible 3 week total) , they scare and coerce everyone to pony up a ton of non-refundable cash for a charter flight, when other flights are available for half the price. Can you spell CHUTZPAH?

janice

Three weeks in quarantine? You do realize that means they can NOT LEAVE THEIR ROOMS! I would be furious if someone decided to come a week late and made my child suffer for another week! But, BH, that is not the case at the school my son is going to as they have told us the day the boys need to arrive and are making suggestions, but not requiring specific flights. No scare tactic, no charters, but no making my kid suffer so someone else could save a few bucks either.

Ari

@Janice
I agree that the sensible thing would be to make a definitive start date that everyone must arrive by

U need to b smart

You do realize that if your child is going to Israel this year, the chances of him/her being quarantined for ONLY 2 weeks are slim to none, and slim just left town.

If any Rabbeim, teachers, students, staff members, etc. , or their family members test positive for Covid, the entire Yeshiva/Seminary will be required to lock down again. What are the odds of that NOT happening? 2 weeks is tough, granted. But every student and parent better realize that throughout the year, it’s likely to be a lot longer.

Quarantine sucks

There isn’t an option to start quarantine according to convenience. The MOH requires it on arrival. The 3 week possibility is a true scenario that can rise to 4 weeks or 5 weeks depending on when individuals arrive. Imagine your child being locked in a room with 5 other teenagers not knowing when they’ll be let out because arrival time of group was so random.

covid in israel

It might very well be longer than 3 weeks. A lot of Israeli yeshivas that had dorms only allowed students to come that agreed to stay the entire zman without leaving, so they were essentially in isolation for 8-10 weeks without even going home (locally in Israel) for Shabbos, Simchas, or Levayas.

Chaim

“El Al has indeed been rebooking passengers holding July tickets onto United”
******
I have three tickets from July and never heard anything about this from EL AL.

Mark

One very important that should be stressed – This is ONE letter from ONE school. Before jumping in to bash all schools and seminaries, why not wait to see what they do?
Why is it okay to engage in mass-bashing of schools based on one letter that represents only one school?
I’m fairly knowledgeable in the seminary world and this is far from the only option being put forth.

Dave

Mark, “I’m fairly knowledgeable in the seminary world and this is far from the only option being put forth”. If that’s so, can you please share with Dan/JJ letters from the other seminaries, and perhaps he can post those too. As you said, let’s see what other seminaries are doing, share them!

Mark

Sorry but I would not share them with this group. If you have a daughter going to seminary, that’s the only reason you need a letter and only from her seminary. Every seminary communicates with it’s own student body.
Posting anything here is fodder for the detractors who’ve long ago decided that anything connected to seminaries is evil.
Reach out to your daughters send and see what they say.
I did and her seminary made no such demand. In fact, they made no demands at all and simply said that they don’t yet know what will be, but for now they have not taken any tuition beyond a deposit and will not take any until the situation clears up. I was very appreciative of their approach.
It was what I expected from a place that I trust to educate my daughter.

Estie bodner

I was wondering if you could help. My daughter was one of those student in Israel. She managed to get home in March using her return flight but her suitcase with all her belongings didn’t. We have a baggage claim number and haven’t been able to speak to anyone. Is there a way to find out where ElAl has the luggage so we can get a family member in israel get it?

Dan\'s the Man

Did you pay for your flight with a credit card? You may have baggage insurance.

Freecountry

Is there a credit card that will give trip cancellation insurance for an airline cancelling a flight for to the virus? From what I read it sounds like not. Chase for example says “What’s Not Covered. Travel arrangements canceled or changed by a common carrier, tour operator, or any travel agency unless the cancellation is the result of severe weather or an organized strike affecting public transportation”
However it sounds like you’re saying it can help

gemarakop

seminaries are good old fashioned businesses.

Avi2

Who’s cousin is the travel agent

AS

Bingo

Yoni

Insanity

Bob

The best analogy here is that the school find itself up in the air, and is now trying to figure out how to fly the plane.

me

+1

Steve Solomon

Whereas you make good points as always, we are dealing with a once in a lifetime situation. I understand what the schools are attempting to do- a unified, organized and controlled situation, wherein they have a modicum of control in the timing f incoming flights, the numbers of arrivals and the quarantining issues relative to American students arriving in Israel. A bit more collective understanding vs the usual American ” what’s best for me” attitude would be called for at this time
Respectfully

mileagejunkie

The “what’s best for me” attitude as you call it is fully warranted as long as they are dropping large amounts of cash.

yair

Rule #1 of running a Yeshiva/Seminary: never, ever admit you made a mistake.

Dan is the man and I am a fan

Sadly, I don’t think anything is going to change. The last seminary scandal shook the ground like an EARTHQUAKE yet it’s business as usual. This is small potatoes my friends, we need to vote with our feet and if necessary, home school (shocking !!!) our daughters on how to run a home, be an isha keshaira, and a mother to a new generation of klal Yisroel.

mileagejunkie

Please, parents have 18 years before that to instill these values, very few people have the capability of changing their character permanently in a few months. How are shadchanim going to divide girls into groups if the girls don’t have the name of the seminary that their parents could afford on their resume? lol

Dave

Just make sure that your uncle’s cousin didn’t attend a co-ed camp 8 years ago, that’ll surely ruin your shiduch prospects

Shmooger

Everybody!

Maybe it’s time All of the parents band up and start telling your child school what do you want them to do. No you do what they want you to do. Make sure they give you the services you want for the price you pay and the dates you want and the education you want and the experience you want not the other way around. If all parents bend up and strictly say if you don’t give us a BC we will not send our kids to you the seminary can close down tomorrow

Dan is the man and I am a fan

Umm the poll numbers speak for themselves on this one. I am not in favor of fellow yidden losing parnasa, but covid is teaching us that the ‘ seminary experience ‘ needs to be evaluated as does the ‘wedding experience ‘ and last but certainly not least the ‘ shul experience ‘. Vehamayvin yavin what can or needs to be done. Regarding those who have their heads in the sand and are just waiting for everything ‘to go back to normal ‘ , in my opinion this is a grave mistake. Thanks Dan for speaking the truth and standing up for what’s right

Chaim

And yet you still call them the “Canada Transportation agency”

Simcha

What a nerve! Haha!

Suri

I’m on the parent’s side and as hard as it try, I just can’t explain/understand the seminaries requiring this.. other than some selfish (monetary) gain.
Parents all realize like Dan wrote, these sem claims are all hogwash….
Maybe Mishpacha Magazine can do a ‘double take’ on it…

Sheyna

When COVID-19 started to become serious, i.e. when anash started dying, the holy in the camp started second-guessing why COVID-19 came to the world, what we had done wrong and what we needed to do. The answer was obvious [at least to those in the know]: chassenes are too extravagant. We must cut down because it is just wrong and so obvious. We can do with only 20-30 really important guests. It will be so much nicer for the Chosson and Kallo to know that only people who really want to join their Simcha are there. Now that COVID-19 has been around for a while and we are starting to become fed up with the unwanted guest, the anti-Chassene chants have become more muted, maybe because very many of those who have got married during these times are actually not so happy with a so-called tznua chassene. Time has come to switch the fire to the outrageous idea and cost of the Israel sem year. Girls can just as well learn in their home countries. No forced flights on El Al [cash payments only] no quarantine, no searching for families to host for Shabbos meals. No hanging around in pizza stores, no illicit relationships – and yes all sorts of relationships are formed both in the closed dorms and out – but like many things in our communities, this is very quickly swept under the carpet. Much of this can be laid at the door of the independence the sem girls have from their familiar home and family environment, and much at the door of the seminaries and their policies. ENOUGH, don’t even think of sending your daughter to a Sem in Israel, the risks are simply too great. Yes, there are girls who are greatly enriched but is it not like COVID-19, v’nishmartem meod al nafshoseichem; the serious risk outweighs everything. Save the money to make her a mechubadik chassene iy”H b’shaar tova.

Irving

Wanna add my 2 cents…we just married off our 4th daughter. All were bais yaakov girls, raised in a frum home, where hashkofos were important. All 4 went against the tide and resisted the peer/school pressures of spending that “0h-$0-$pecial” year in Israel. The 2 older ones (one has a girl graduating HS soon) didn’t attend sem at all. The 2 younger ones attended local NY sems. We did NOT force the year-in-Israel concept on them. They all decided against it ON THEIR OWN. B”H, they all married fine gentlemen WITHOUT sems. And the $ saved was applied to their weddings. Moral: Sems are a waste of $

Tom

I have hakaros hatov that my parents paid for my year in Israel. Today, that yeshiva is approaching $30,000/year, not counting a Poland trip or plane travel. Especially pronounced with the economic destruction of Covid, its going to be a new generation for those types of yeshivas. I wouldn’t send my kids at that price. This letter adds insensitivity to the exuberant costs of “going” to Israel

Samdaman

“Any student that did not panic and leave on the infamous charter flight”

You mean the one the sem heads used as public relations to show how well they take care of their girls, complete with an article in Mishpacha????

Hadassa

No, it’s not fair.

Many seminaries have many rules that are not fair, and if we don’t want to follow them, we need not send our daughters there.

Speaking of voting with our feet, my daughter left seminary early last year, and we have been unable to get a refund on the unused part of her elal ticket. The travel agent insisted in a $100 fee to fight this for us, and six weeks later, all they can tell us is “we are waiting for elal to get back to us”.

One day, this pandemic will be over, and when travel gets back to normal, can I advise dans deals reader NOT to use PLANE TALK TRAVEL. Their service has been abominable.

Tzofit Goldfarb

I agree 100%. One thing not mentioned is that many parents would have been HAPPY to book their child’s return flight home with their open ticket on El Al – nobody could get through to El Al!!! If you waited for hours on hold and got lucky, maybe you had a chance to get on a flight. My daughter’s sem tried its best to stay open, until on a Shabbos Bibi changed all the rules and all of a sudden they all needed to come home. I got frantic hysterical phone calls on Motzai Shabbos – and I needed to get my daughter on a flight ASAP. Should i have sat on hold with El Al for two days to try to use her open ticket as every flight booked up? As a parent who had a child in Israel last year, this letter from a seminary is infuriating. I have multiple tickets sitting out there waiting to get refunded or credited for. All with El Al. I feel bad for the travel agents, but what about the finances of all the parents??? To ask parents to pay in cash, to El Al no less, is outrageous!

Ari

For clarity did other airlines not stop flying from Israel last April and May? If they did, did they pay for a charter flight for seminary/yeshiva students with open ended tickets (RT) bough in August/September?

Yochai

A. United did fly continuously
B. No one said the airlines should pay for the charter flights, but they should refund the partially unused tickets for those who chose to return on the charters.

R

“We have no allegiance to El Al. We don’t make any money on your ticket, regardless of whether you pay $1800 for a ticket or $800.”

We get our kickback from Takeoff Travel

.

Which isn’t true but since only the schools name was removed and not the travel agents, honest people are bashed and business reputation ruined.

OD

why cant parents be more independent and join together and not send their children if they disagree with the school’s policy? Then you may see some changes. You have the leverage if you band together!
You”ll find something else for her.

G-d forbid she should go local or work?

JS

I understand the position of the schools (and, no, I have absolutely no connection to any school or travel agent).
Following the regulations for quarantining so many student will be a logistical nightmare, and if all the students don’t arrive on the same flight, it would only make it more complicated. (For similar reasons, even in normal years, schools encourage students to take the group flight, but in my experience don’t make it mandatory.)
And if students are allowed to make their own arrangements and some arrive outside of the proscribed window (whether it be because they intentionally bent the rules for whatever reason, or just due to airline delays), that will only increase the potential for errors, and there can be very damaging consequences if the school is then caught not following the regulations exactly (and bureaucrats seldom, and especially in this climate, care that it was an honest mistake).
Like any business that outsources a function, flights are not the schools’ area of expertise, and they are relying on this travel agent who they feel is honest and reliable to make the decisions on the best arrangements — including which airline to use. The school does say that they are taking price into consideration when making these decisions.
I don’t like much of the seminary system, but in this case I don’t blame them for this policy.

Dan\'s the Man

Dan,
Why can’t the travel agents coordinate with United / Delta an extra flights on those days. This would seem to solve all the problems? Why deal with chartered flights?

Joda

If you don’t agree to the T&C of a specific school, don’t send your children there. If one of the schools didn’t offer Kosher food, would you send them there? Obviously, the answer is no. So, please, take a stand and adhere to your principles. Otherwise, you are just whining like a three year old that didn’t get her candy.

Dan\'s the Man

Another idea I thought of is why can’t the charter flight be a one way flight? Then at the end of the school year each student can buy a one way commercial flight. I realize one way flights generally cost more but this way you aren’t are risk of paying a cash for a ticket that will be used in 10 months. Also there are some low cost options on 1 way from flights on Aeroflot, Ukrainian, Norwegian, etc

uz

You will lose the extra free bag! (sarcastic)

Also, United and Delta are so much more convenient for everybody not in JFK land. (especially with extra baggage charges of flying Elal, and then booking another airline for the last leg.)

moshe

United site says “For tickets issued between April 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020, customers will be permitted to change without paying a change fee to a flight of equal or lesser value for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date.”

me

name the school

Satturn

I’m a israeli Yeshiva admin. I arranged our group flight. The agent we used to use was professional enough to say don’t book elal, even though he only does group bookings on elal. Once we got entry permission from the government, we spoke with 3 agents for United or delta group bookings. The one who’s option came out the cheapest was chosen. We don’t force out students to fly with the group. But you would need to arrive on the same day. This is the health ministry requirements for group quarentine. If not we would have to quarentine alone which is not something we would do to people, and don’t have the facilities to arrange. We picked the date to fly based on being out of quarentine for rosh Hashanah. We had a few day window and went with the cheapest option. The tickets where expensive, and everyone has the right to find a cheaper option. The reality was that most chose to use the group because it actually was not cheaper since the flights are booking up with the 15 thousand students expecting to arrive. Our institution did not and will not receive a single kickback for the students who chose to fly with the group. All payments are made with credit cards. Many people used points or credits to travel on the exact same flight as the group.

Dave

Sounds dignified, transparent, and a respectful policy

moshe

Dan, you’re the man. I was musing yesterday if you would take an offer from Eli Rozenberg to be CEO of El Al!

Dan\'s the Man

not CEO, just hire Dan as a consultant to fix the Matmid program. (Dan, please get El Al’s branded card to be with Barclays. I’m over 5/24 🙂 )

Alex V

Complaining anonymously about seminaries will not help at all.
Be a man, don’t fall for the pressure and insist that your daughter don’t go.
That’s the only way this will change.

Mine didn’t go to seminary. And they are perfectly fine.

Bu!lShi!ter

Thank you Dan for coming out against this and preventing frum people from scamming others. Pay for a ticket that may not happen in cash?? That is suicidal, and clearly shows how much faith the travel agent has in the flight actually happening.

Classic case of BUYER BE AWARE!

Chuchim from Machal Maalot dafna

Is There a confirmed date for Yeshiva and seminary students to be allowed back on flights to Israel?

c

Seminaries never force their girls to go on group flights. This is the first year that some seminaries are doing that. There is a big chance that more students will be able to be in every quarantine group and that the restrictions will be easier for seminaries that all students are on the same flight.

Got the scoop

I heard the yeshivas have been meeting to charter cruise ships. The ships will take two weeks from NY to Chaifa. The israeli government is figuring a way to allow the two weeks in transit to be accepted as quarantine time. By the time they arrive quarantine is over and they go straight to yeshiva.

Dani

@dan we flew TLV JFK via elal on June 18th. Our return flight was scheduled for 8/19. Ive been desperately trying to get in touch with elal to rebook our tickets on United to no avail. How is everyone doing it?

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