El Al passengers: We arrived after the start of Shabbat

El Al passengers furious at company for inconsiderate behavior, say they won't easily forget it.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

El Al airplane
El Al airplane
Photo: Moshe Shai / Flash90

Last Thursday, El Al passengers arrived at JFK Airport in New York, prepared to board El Al Flight 008 to Israel.

The flight was scheduled to take off at 8:45pm and land in Israel at 2:20pm on Friday afternoon - just two hours before the start of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath).

However, at check-in the passengers were told the flight would take off half an hour late.

"Don't worry, though, we'll still arrive in Israel at 2:20, just like we're scheduled to," El Al staff told them.

Then, after all the passengers had boarded and buckled, the flight crew discovered a technical issue: they weren't able to close the plane's door.

An hour later, technicians arrived and fixed the door, but then pilot discovered he could not move forward, and had to wait for someone to tow the plane to the runway.

"At 10:10pm, after a delay of an hour and a half, we understood that we would arrive just prior to sunset on Friday, and would not make it home before the start of Shabbat," said D., a passenger on Flight 008. "We decided we would prefer to get off the plane and spend Shabbat in New York."

"We requested to get off the plane, but El Al staff started convincing us we would arrive on time. 'You don't have to worry, the pilot will arrive in Israel only an hour late, at 3:15pm,' they said.

"The flight crew were very nice, but they lied unashamedly to us. They worked together with the pilot and caused us to lose time. They went into the cockpit, saying they would have an answer for us in a minute," D. continued.

"At some point, the pilot told us if the plane went back to the gate to allow the religious passengers to get off, it would need to stay in New York for the entire weekend, leaving all 400 passengers stranded. 'And therefore,' the pilot said, 'I request the religious passengers take the others into consideration and remain on the plane.' He said it in those words. We had no choice, and the plane took off."

However, contrary to the attendants' promises, the flight did not arrive in Israel on schedule, arriving only at 3:35pm. By the time the passengers had cleared customs, taxi service had ended.

"Bottom line, we arrived at 4:35pm, exactly at sunset. And before that, we had to walk, dragging our suitcases, for an hour and a half.

"This is absolutely unacceptable behavior from a company which claims to serve all its customers equally," D. said. "I really felt the staff did not care about my situation at all."

An El Al spokesman said, "From the time the plane begins to move towards the runway, only an emergency can turn it back. Experience, as well as forecasts showed there was no reason for the plane to arrive after the start of Shabbat. And indeed, the plane landed with enough time to allow the passengers who observe Shabbat to arrive home before sunset.

"It should also be noted that rabbis, as well as El Al staff, have mentioned several times the need to schedule winter flights earlier, so that in case of unexpected difficulties, the flight will still arrive with enough time for passengers to arrive home comfortably," he concluded.