El Al management and pilots begin negotiations as company registers losses

Al has plummeted to the bottom of the international Flightstats rating and regained the title of “tardiest airliner in the world."

November 22, 2016 16:03
3 minute read.

Planes on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport during a dust storm

Planes on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport during a dust storm


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The Histadrut labor federation said Tuesday progress was made in talks with El Al to resolve a work-to-rule strike that has accelerated over the past two weeks, resulting in the cancellation of some 12 flights.

The 11-hour meeting, which began Monday night and lasted into Tuesday morning, between El Al CEO David Maimon met Monday night, and pilot representatives, including Nir Zuk, was convened by Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn.

“Progress has been made on a wide array of issues. Both sides will reconvene urgently to continue negotiations,” Histadrut spokesman Yaniv Levi said Tuesday morning. El Al management and representatives of the pilots refused to comment on the particulars of the negotiations.

The two sides will continue to meet in an effort to reach an agreement to end the crisis. The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee plans to convene an emergency session on Thursday to address the situation. Its chairman, MK Eitan Cable, plans to meet separately with representatives of the pilots and management before the committee gathers.

Since 2014, El Al pilots have engaged in a work dispute with management over a variety of issues. Measures taken by the pilots include their refusal to man flights unless they are allowed to pilot the plane in just one direction, while returning in business class – a practice that escalated in the past several months, spreading to the majority of the company’s aviators. Until last week, management begrudgingly accepted the practice in order to keep things running smoothly, but with no resolution in sight, has taken a harder line.

Before entering the meeting, Nissenkorn told the press the Histadrut will do “what is best for the citizens, the company and the workers. Our goal is to attempt to bring calm.”

A source close to the negotiations told The Jerusalem Post “both sides aim to meet again to reach a full agreement.”

Temporary calm seems to have been restored following the meeting, as no El Al flights were canceled, delayed or chartered out.

However, both sides, say it is still premature to talk about a resolution of the crisis until an agreement between management and the pilots is finalized.

Prior to the meeting, the pilots had attempted to sway other El Al employees to their side, distributing a letter on Monday claiming “[El Al] management is attempting to deceive [employees] by claiming that the pilots are the cause of the trouble.”

The pilots also held a rally in front of El Al offices in Tel Aviv on Monday to which they invited their fellow employees, during which the pilots committee held a so-called “advocacy session” aimed at explaining their position to the other participants.

Separately on Tuesday, El Al reported third-quarter net income of $70 million compared to $93m. a year earlier, though revenue was down just slightly at $644m. from $647m. in the comparable period last year.

“The third quarter was heavily influenced by the ongoing pilots’ strike over the last few months,” Maimon said in a press release. “We had to charter out our flights by other airliners and their crews in order avoid canceling as few flights as possible, a move which also increased the company expenses.”

The quarterly report shows an increase in El Al’s operational costs in the last few months due to the chartering out of long-distance flights in the last minute. Additionally, flights that are canceled or delayed set back the company’s profits, especially due to an emergency policy implemented by the company because of the current situation that allows customers to request a full refund with no fees for cancellations or rescheduling.

In the last two months, El Al has plummeted to the bottom of the international Flightstats rating, regaining the title of “tardiest airliner in the world.” Additionally, the Israel Airports Authority has laid sanctions on El Al, barring them their priority treatment in all airport services. This, as well as entire flights carried out by foreign planes and crews, has damaged El Al’s reputation as the number one Israeli international airliner.

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