El Al to compensate passengers for infamous 'Shabbat flight'

Israel's national airline to reach settlement with passengers falsely accused of assaulting crew on flight which landed after Shabbat began.

Tags: El Al
Arutz Sheva Staff ,

El Al's Jumbo 747-400
El Al's Jumbo 747-400
Yossi Zelliger/Flash 90

El Al, Israel’s national airline, has agreed to compensate passengers from last year’s infamous “Shabbat flight”, paving the way for an out-of-court settlement, ending a class action lawsuit against the airline.

According to a report Tuesday morning by Israel Hayom, attorneys representing 52 passengers from the November 23rd 2018 El Al Flight LY002 have reached a breakthrough with the airline, with the two sides agreeing that El Al will pay the claimants a total of 111,904 shekels ($31,682), or 2,152 shekels ($609) per passenger.

The flight had been scheduled to leave New York’s JFK airport at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 22nd 2018, with a planned arrival in Israel early Friday morning – well before the beginning of the Sabbath at sundown.

After the flight crew failed to arrive on time, however, Flight LY002 left hours behind schedule.

Despite promises from the crew that the plane would still arrive in Israel before the beginning of the Sabbath, after the plane had taken off the captain informed the passengers that the flight would in fact be landing in Israel after the start of the Jewish holy day.

The flight’s roughly 180 Orthodox Jewish passengers were dropped off at Athens during an unscheduled stopover in Greece, and were forced to spend the Sabbath there before returning to Israel on a flight after the Sabbath.

Following Flight LY002’s arrival in Israel, the plane’s religious passengers, who had disembarked in Athens, were accused of attacking the flight crew, with doctored videos of passengers’ interactions with flight attendants going viral, and even being promoted by Channel 10.

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, 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.”

Fifty-two passengers rejected the offer, however, demanding 7,000 shekels ($1,982) each in compensation as part of a class action lawsuit.