Tech giant boycotts El Al over moving female passengers

Raanana-based Nice Systems, a software enterprise company, is pledging that none of its employees will fly on El Al until the airline explicitly bar gender discrimination.

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June 26, 2018 19:17
2 minute read.
Tech giant boycotts El Al over moving female passengers

The first of Israel's El Al Airlines order of 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets, lands at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel August 23, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

 
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One of Israel’s largest hi-tech firms has threatened to boycott national airline El Al after a flight last week was delayed until crew members could accommodate a group of ultra-Orthodox men who refused to take their ticketed seats next to women.

On Thursday night, a scheduled El Al flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Israel sat on the runway for 75 minutes until crew members could find two women who would agree to move their seats.

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Raanana-based NICE Ltd., a software enterprise company, is pledging that none of its employees will fly on El Al until the airline explicitly bars gender discrimination. It’s a rare foray by a publicly-traded company into the deepening controversy.

“At NICE we don’t do business with companies that discriminate against race, gender or religion,” CEO Barak Eilam wrote on his LinkedIn page on Monday. “NICE will not fly @EL AL Israel Airlines until they change their practice and actions discriminating [against] women.”

The incident has led to heavy criticism against the financially-struggling airline, whose stock price has fallen by more than half in the past year. It also possibly violates a court ruling from last year which barred the airline from asking passengers to move based on gender.

In response to the budding boycott calls – which could portend further trouble for El Al since the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) and hi-tech executives are key markets – El Al’s CEO Gonen Usishkin pushed back against the boycott by Eilam.

“The statement released by the NICE CEO was done without checking the facts [and] in a hasty manner, and I have made this clear to him in [a] conversation with him,” he said on Tuesday. The El Al CEO added that in the future, passengers who refuse to be seated next to someone else would be “immediately removed from the flight.”



At the time, El Al crew members struggled to resolve the fracas, periodically threatening to remove the belligerent men. The flight attendants ended up approaching passengers row by row, asking for volunteers to move. The incident went viral on social media after a passenger posted about the delay.

The action taken by El Al goes against an Israeli court ruling issued in June 2017 that awarded Holocaust survivor Renee Rabinowitz damages after an El Al flight attendant asked her to switch seats because a haredi man wouldn’t sit next to her.

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