El Al offers 'Shabbat Flight' passengers free tickets to Europe

Israel's national airline says it never tried to place blame on religious passengers for mishaps during infamous 'Shabbat Flight' from NYC.

Michal Levy ,

El Al flight
El Al flight
Flash 90

El Al, Israel’s national airliner, announced Monday morning that it would offer passengers of last week’s now infamous “Shabbat Flight” free tickets to Europe as compensation for the extremely late departure of the flight, and inconvenience caused to religious passengers who were unloaded in Greece.

Last Thursday night just before midnight, El Al’s Flight LY002 from New York to Tel Aviv, departed more than five hours late, after crew members failed to arrive on time for the 6:30 p.m. scheduled departure time.

While the flight crew promised passengers, including some 180 Orthodox travelers, that the flight would arrive in Israel before the beginning of the Sabbath Friday evening, the captain later announced that the plane would be landing in Ben Gurion International Airport after the start of the Jewish holy day.

Religious passengers who wished to avoid desecrating the Sabbath were required to disembark in Greece during an unscheduled stopover in Athens, while the secular passengers remained onboard and continued on with the flight to Israel.

Shortly after the flight arrived in Israel, claims spread on social media that many of the flight’s Orthodox passengers had attacked the El Al crew and attempted to force their way into the cockpit.

Video of religious passengers signing on board the plane while waiting for takeoff was later edited and released by Channel 10 with the soundtrack of a hostile confrontation, giving the impression that the crowd of Orthodox passengers seen in the video were attacking the flight crew.

El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin later publicly stated that there was no violence on Flight LY002.

"I never said that the haredim on the flight attacked anyone. There was no physical violence."

Amid demands for a formal apology from El Al and a multimillion dollar class action lawsuit, on Monday the airline announced it would compensate passengers with free roundtrip tickets. But while Flight LY002 was from the US to Israel, the free tickets will be open only to destinations in Europe.

“El Al has decided to give roundtrip tickets for flights to Europe to all 400 of the passengers on the November 11th Flight LY 002 from New York to Tel Aviv, due to the inconvenience caused to passengers.”

The company also denied accusing religious passengers of attacking the flight crew.

“In addition, the company believes it is important to restate that, as already mentioned in a press release on November 19th, [El Al] never placed any blame on the secular or religious or haredi public for the incidents which have been reported. Any reports to the contrary were not made with El Al’s consent.”