Different signals from the Israel Airport Authority and the Histadrut Labor Union caused confusion early Wednesday morning for British Airways passengers who eventually were forced to prolong their stay in Israel along with thousands of other travelers grounded by the Histadrut's strike, which took effect at 6 a.m., after which no flights were allowed to take off from the country's airports.
British Airways started to check-in passengers earlier, however, rerouting some passengers on other airlines' flights scheduled to leave before the deadline and with the hope they might get special permission from the Histadrut to operate their 7:30 a.m. flight.
After the strike began, an IAA employee told workers at the BA check-in gate they could board passengers who were traveling with hand luggage only, causing a commotion among passengers on other flights who saw the BA passengers going through the gate. When news reached the Histadrut, the union blocked the boarding and the passengers were returned to the departure hall.
A British Airways spokesman stressed that the airline had not tried to sneak passengers on board, as had been reported in the press, and that the airline had made its request to fly back to London through the Histadrut committee dealing with exception cases. The flight eventually took off Wednesday afternoon with just its crew on board with the blessing of the Histadrut.
IAA spokesperson Shmulik Hefetz would not comment on the incident saying the strike was a Labor Union issue and had nothing to do with the IAA.