Shortly before the airline strike came to a close on Monday, Mark Feldman, a
travel adviser and CEO of Zion Tours in Jerusalem, offered suggestions to
thousands of stranded Israelis and tourists on finding their way home.
Sunday, Israeli carriers El Al, Arkia and Israir grounded their fleets,
protesting the government’s decision to pass an Open Skies agreement with the
EU. The agreement looks to introduce greater competition and is intended to
According to Feldman, the airlines are attempting to
exploit the agreement to get the government to cover expenses unique to the
“The problem is that Israeli airlines have higher security
costs than other airlines... they want all those costs paid by the Israeli tax
payer,” Feldman said. “That is really the crux of why they’re on strike. They’re
exploiting the change of the new [government] administration to flex their
muscles to say: ‘We want you to pay for security costs.’” Feldman described the
impasse as “total chaos.”
“Nobody is paying for [stranded passengers’]
out-of-pocket expenses, including hotels, food and phone calls,” he
Feldman added that those affected by the strike must move quickly
to re-book their tickets.
“Stranded passengers do not have first priority
[on subsequent flights] because the passengers already scheduled for that flight
can’t be bumped,” he said. “So they must rebook immediately, as if they have no
ticket at all.”
Feldman strongly recommended that stranded travelers have
their travel agents deal directly with the striking airlines to make alternate
“As travel agents we have better connections with people at the
airlines, higher up the food chain,” he said. “This way we can get them home
Feldman said that while he is providing full refunds for clients
forced to cancel their trips in advance, there are no refunds for those
“For our clients stranded in London, we brought them
back on British Airways and for our clients stranded in Amsterdam, we had them
book flights on KLM. [El Al payed] for it by endorsing the ticket over, which
covered all [flight] costs,” he said.
Feldman said he has 345 stranded
clients, and his agency was on the phone nonstop with airlines to endorse
passengers’ tickets to other carriers. He noted that travel insurance does not
cover strikes and said agents can defray further costs by having the striking
airline endorse their tickets to another airline.
are no refunds for people stranded because there is no insurance that will cover
them,” he explained.
Travelers stranded by strikes have three options, he
“One, wait until the strike ends; two, buy a brand new ticket on a
different airline out of [your own] pocket; or three, have [the striking
airline] endorse the ticket to another airline, without paying
Feldman said all three striking Israeli airlines had
endangered their passengers and seriously compromised their
“When all the dust settles, the senior management at El Al,
Arkia and Israir have a lot of explaining to do,” he said. “And it will take a
long time to regain their clients’ trust.”
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