The Knesset plenum today approved in second and third reading the Aviation Services Bill, which will make it easier for airlines in the event of cancellation or postponement of a flight but will make it worse for passengers.
Today, airlines are obligated to give passengers a refund and even compensation for flight cancellation or changing its terms. Due to the coronavirus crisis many flights were canceled and the airlines got into trouble.
Under the new law, as a temporary provision, airlines will be able to offer a passenger a credit instead of returning their money. Also, airlines will not be required under the new law to provide monetary compensation in the event of cancellation or advancing a flight.
In addition, the entitlement of a passenger whose flight is canceled to hotel accommodation will be limited to two nights only.
According to the Aviation Services Bill, the temporary order will apply to a flight to and from Israel whose departure date is from March 1st, 2020, or before that in the case of destinations for which there is an obligation to isolate due to the coronavirus, until August 31, 2020.
The law authorizes the Transport and Road Safety Minister, in consultation with the Economy and Industry Minister and with approval of the Economics Committee, to extend the temporary order for additional periods of up to nine months in total.
The explanation for the law reads: "In the current situation, where airlines have been severely affected by the coronavirus crisis due to a huge drop in demand, as opposed to high fixed expenses that the ability to reduce them is very limited. Continuation of this situation poses a real danger to the continued existence of Israeli airlines as viable companies.
"Due to Israel's geopolitical situation, where practically speaking it is an island state with no land connection with its main trading and tourism partners, the airlines are the main bridge of the State of Israel to the world in the context of movement of people and goods with certain characteristics. Therefore, it is important for the economy to maintain the operating capacity of the airlines in general and of Israeli airlines in particular. In the circumstances created, ways need to be found to reduce the damage to airlines due to the severe crisis in the industry, and the proposed law amendment is one of them."
Joint Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi, who initiated the original law, opposed the amendment. "This is an amendment that repeals the most pro-consumer law that ever was in the Knesset, a law that would reimburse for flight cancellations and delays and that is by definition the most pro-consumer legislation that the Knesset has enacted in recent years," he said.
He added, "I'm proud it's called the Tibi Law and I'm proud that it forces airlines to be accurate with times and to consider mistakes, delays, and cancellations and to reimburse and compensate passengers. I've seen how Economy Committee Chairman MK Margi has difficulty passing this law. Airlines are almost collapsing, so the State is committed to providing direct assistance to airlines. Instead what did they do? Deprive the citizen."