We now are in the Days of Awe, the period that begins with Rosh Hashana and
lasts until the end of Yom Kippur, when time is often spent in penitent
self-examination. While I relish the chance to better myself, my human nature
also leads me to seek out and offer suggestions so that others too, especially
in the travel industry, can use this time to better themselves. With incoming
tourists exceeding 3 million this year and almost a similar number of Israelis
exiting, air travel remains the main mode of transport in entering and leaving
This new year will bring the merger of Continental and
United Airlines. No doubt by spring, the vaunted name of Continental will no
longer exist and United Airlines planes will be flying to Ben-Gurion Airport
twice daily instead. British Airways and Iberia are also joining forces though
the success of this Spanish-English armada presents a whole slew of
EasyJet, the British low-cost carrier, has taken a huge chunk
of the London-Tel Aviv market and its recent entry into flying to Geneva
leave the Swiss airline feeling confident.
Sterling Air will commence
charter flights to Denmark in the next two months, allowing
Israelis inexpensive flights between their countries.
Arkia has unveiled
its reply to the lowcost carriers, by creating Arkia Express.
to compete with the foreign low-cost carriers flying here, it promises
Internet-only reservation system, where, when booking several months in
cheap fares will be available. Initially starting with flights to Paris
Amsterdam in November, it will be expanded to Rome and Munich later in
The Express flight ticket does not include luggage transportation
does it include seat assignments.
Forget about free drinks or snacks; the
only thing free on these flights is the use of the toilets – and this
This inevitably leads me to the crux of the issue, ably
accompanied by an expansive and exhaustive study of the Top Air 8 travel
1. Luggage charges: This was embraced wholeheartedly by US
carriers a few years ago whereby a plane ticket no longer included free
bags. With the major exception of Southwest Airlines, almost all US
charge, and charge well, for checking in bags. On the transatlantic
airlines still permit two checked bags for the average passenger flying
from the Middle East. The glaring exceptions to this rule are British
American Airlines and Iberia who gleefully permit only one, bringing
dollars into their kitties from the unwitting tourist who still naively
he can travel with two bags.
Still EasyJet has been quite adamant in its
no free checked bag policy and has managed to fill its coffers. Whether
Express can pave a similar path remains to be seen.
2, Added fees:
Airlines continue to play this insulting game – first quoting a fare
on fuel surcharges, transportation taxes and airline fees. That consumer
organizations throughout the world haven’t fought this insidious game
surprises me. Consumers want one price. They don’t care, or need to
know, how it
was reached. Just add up all the darned extras and quote the fare.
Rude or unhelpful staff: A frequent visitor to these shores, when making
complaint, was told by the personnel at Ben- Gurion Airport, “Why don’t
leave Israel, sir, and visit another country?” So many of the complaints
receive from readers center around outright rude behavior from airline
employees. Sometimes in the air, but usually it’s the staff on the
no doubt tired of so many clients, prefer to insult the complainant
trying to solve the problem.
4. Can’t reach a live service
representative: This can reach almost comical proportions here. Tourists
to speak to an airline to make changes on their ticket are left to fend
themselves if it’s after 5 p.m., or on a Friday or Saturday or any
holiday, or if the airline office takes a long lunch break. It is absurd
the Tourism Ministry permits these airlines to close their offices,
This is a service industry, and if the local office
isn’t operating 24/7 it must be able to transfer you to a representative
For the present, the only way to speak to an airline employee after
hours is to trek to the airport in the feeble hope it has a plane
not, there is simply no alternative.
Let’s hope the Arkia Express
business model of relying only on the Internet does not backfire.
communications about delays: Delays are an integral part of the airline
industry. A hurricane will ripple through the entire airline’s network
flights to be delayed or cancelled outright. Airlines try a variety of
get this news out.
Example, El Al leaves a mechanized recorded message on
your phone. “El AL #004 has been cancelled from JFK; please make your
Newark Airport and have a nice day” is one of their most recent
Consumers are cajoled and urged to check themselves, and
never to rely upon the airlines.
Internet access is the easiest but
finding cogent details about how long the delay will continue is
The next three top air travel gripes relate to you, my dear
6. Seatmates who hog your space: Okay, so you don’t want to pay
to be served lousy airline food, and you do want to work or play on your
Does it mean that you have to put your stuff all over your seat and
it really mean that you can recline your seat into my face? Does it mean
while you may not be petite, that seat divider between you and me is to
shared equally and my elbows don’t need to be in my lap? I’d like you
smell of onions; I’d appreciate you not sneezing in my direction – but
really want is for you to stay in your space and I’ll stay in mine.
People who hog carry-on space: This is an issue that will only cause
friction as more and more airlines charge for checked baggage. Too often
passengers fill their backpacks to obscene proportions, have a roll-on
just meets the requirements of a carry-on piece, have decided that
duty free is their birthright and stuff those overhead bins as far as
I’m waiting for the day when entry to an aircraft is determined
by the weight of the passenger and his or her possessions. “I’m sorry
you’re only permitted to carry on 10 percent of your body weight on the
8. Crying babies, unruly kids: A colleague of mine recently
returned from the island of Rhodes quipping that she thought the plane
chartered to film a diaper commercial. She attests that almost onethird
plane was filled with babies, with another third made up of their
She commented that the decibel level rivaled a recent rock
concert she attended.
Personally I take umbrage that crying babies could
be on this list – especially on international flights where the little
to pay 10% of an adult fare for the privilege of being held in someone’s
While I would prefer the silence over the crying of a baby, I hold
no grudge against the parent.
It’s the rotten kid kicking my seat that
has me pondering the idea of segregating these children in their own
Why parents permit such behavior always amazed me.
Too often when I raise
an eyebrow, I’m simply told that junior is acting out but will soon
My furtive glance to a service attendant is always avoided.
So as we
enter this new year, filled with hope and optimism on all that it will
let us also strive to make the flying changes that will better
everyone.The writer is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. For questions
and comments e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.