AN EL AL Boeing 777 aircraft is seen at Ben-Gurion Airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
While the work dispute between El Al management and its pilots appears to be heading for a conclusion, a class-action lawsuit against El Al was filed on Tuesday. The suit was filed following the revelation by El Al management that pilots used to deliberately prolong flight durations for long-distance flights.
Plaintiffs are demanding NIS 50 million in damages.
“The company is currently studying the suit and will file a legal response as necessary,” an El Al representative told The Jerusalem Post.
The lawsuit was filed with the Tel Aviv District Court by the Miron, Bension and Prywes law firm on Tuesday and focuses on El Al management’s own public admission that its pilots used to deliberately prolong the duration of long-distance flights in order to reap larger bonuses. The lawsuit states that by allowing this behavior for years and failing to report this fact to its clients, El Al broke tort laws, consumer protection laws and contracts laws, and the plaintiffs are therefore entitled to damages.
“They [El Al] pretty much admitted it themselves. During an emergency discussion at the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, the company’s CEO talked about this openly, out of anger against the pilots,” a source close to the class action told the Post.
During the first week of the escalation of the pilots’ strike, representatives from both sides fought fiercely over public opinion, prompting El Al management to publicize on several occasions, including in press releases and public appearances, that El Al pilots gain large bonuses, in addition to their already large salaries, due to their habit of prolonging flight times. This issue stood as a basis for the work dispute, along with the issue of pilots demanding to fly in one direction only, while returning in business class.
Additionally, the understandings agreed upon by El Al’s pilots and management include a section that eliminates the practice of prolonging flights for bonuses by defining a set duration for every flight, according to which a pilot’s salary will be calculated from now on. As of yet, the agreement draft has not been signed into law by the parties, and El Al told the Post that “the company will only comment on the details of the agreement, once a legally binding and finalized agreement is signed.”
According to the lawsuit, since purchasing a ticket constitutes a business contract between El Al and its passengers, El Al broke its obligation to full contractual disclosure by not disclosing to the passengers that their flight would have an unnecessary delay. Additionally, this delay has caused inconvenience to the passengers, who could have avoided it had they known.
“For this to have been legal, El Al should have informed their potential clients of this issue and leave them to decide whether or not they wish to make this deal or turn to another carrier,” stated the suit.
The 103-page lawsuit compared this practice to a dentist who gave a patient a root canal, while the latter only needed a filling, in order for the dentist to receive a root canal bonus from his employer. All this with the full knowledge of the dentist’s employer, who in turn never bothered to disclose this to the patient.
“For years, the company deceived its clients and, under the pretense of offering a standard flight, caused long delays,” stated the suit.
The suit included data and information issued by El Al itself in the past year, and promised to provide more evidence as the case progresses, should the suit be accepted by the court.
Currently, the class-action includes two plaintiffs, a senior hi-tech worker and a veteran surgeon, who frequently traveled with El Al to the United States. According to the law firm, since the suit was filed, two more individuals asked to join the class action as plaintiffs.
It is now up to the court to decide whether the suit is justified and the plaintiffs have standing.