El Al airplanes sit on the runway 370 (R).
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
It’s been a turbulent few days for El Al, as threats of a sexual discrimination
lawsuit followed an online mix-up that saw hundreds of passengers snap up
tickets that had been erroneously marked down to a fraction of their
El Al announced Thursday night that while it is still examining
what led to the fiasco, it will honor the unusually cheap
“Although a review of this occurrence has not been finalized, a
decision was made to accommodate El Al passengers who purchased these low fares
because we value our reputation of offering excellent customer service,” General
Manager Danny Saadon said in a statement. “Hopefully, we have provided an
opportunity to many first timers to visit Israel as well as reconnect family and
It was revealed on Thursday that an attorney for Floridian
Debra Ryder sent a letter to El Al on Tuesday, demanding NIS 50,000 in
compensation, saying she was forced to give up her seat on El Al Flight 8202
from New York to Tel Aviv in mid-June, after a haredi man refused to sit next to
In the letter, Ryder’s attorney Orly Erez Lukhovski of the
Religious Action Center, which is affiliated with the Reform movement, said that
when Ryder boarded the flight she saw that an ultra-Orthodox man had taken her
place. The letter says that Ryder told a flight steward named Roi that the man
was sitting in her place and refused to get up.
The flight steward then
asked the man to get up and when he refused, asked Ryder to sit elsewhere
temporarily so the flight could depart on time, the letter
Lukhovski said that because of medical reasons, her client must sit
in an aisle seat, but was asked to sit in a middle seat nonetheless. She also
said that Ryder did not receive her vegetarian meal due to the seat mix-up.
According to Lukhovski, the flight attendant did not ask the man to get up later
on; instead he apologized to Ryder and gave her some free
Lukhovski said that Ryder issued a complaint to El Al customer
service later in June, and spoke to a customer service representative who said
the company had encountered the problem before and had spoken to a rabbi for
advice on how to handle the issue.
In the letter, Lukhovski said Ryder’s
treatment by El Al “reveals discriminatory policy on El Al flights, done with
the cooperation of the flight crew.”
“El Al is obligated to safeguard
equality and respect in its treatment of all of its passengers.
stewards are supposed to ensure that women will not be kicked out of their place
because of the demand of a haredi passenger,” the letter added.
said she had not received a reply from El Al.
Contacted by The Jerusalem
on Thursday, El Al said the company implements a strict ban on
discrimination against passengers and that its flight stewards deal with a
diverse range of customers and demands every day, and does their best to assist
The company added: “We regret the attempt to drag El Al
into the issue of discrimination against women, as it is known that we respect
all of our customers as they are.”
The letter from Ryder’s attorney and
the American passenger’s interview on Army Radio Thursday morning came after an
embarrassing fiasco for El Al that saw thousands of round-trip tickets bought
online last week at unheard-of bargains.
El Al said on its
English-language Twitter page Wednesday: “Thanks for your patience.
Details/decisions re incorrect fares that were briefly sold on Monday are not
finalized. We will update tomorrow.”
That statement came after a previous
tweet on Monday in which El Al said, “An outside company posted incorrect fares
on travel websites, so all tickets sold will indeed be honored.”
error resulted in round-trip tickets from North America to Tel Aviv in the coming
winter sold online for as cheap as $350.