250,000 Israelis share tips on how to get over the COVID-19 flight ban

Secret Flights co-founder Yaneev Lanis tells the ‘Post’ his company is investing in better tech to serve its quarter of a million users when flights return.

The empty Ben Gurion airport, as most flights have been cencelled in order to prevent the spreading of the Coronavirus. April 06, 2020.  (photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
The empty Ben Gurion airport, as most flights have been cencelled in order to prevent the spreading of the Coronavirus. April 06, 2020.
(photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
When Secret Flights was founded in 2017, it offered Israelis an unbeatable service: to learn about low-cost flights the moment they are offered. The social media group exploded to its current 250,000 members. In the pre-coronavirus age, users would compare deals, debate the finer points of international airports, and take part in the Israeli version of the art of the deal. 
“Flights are vacations – and for us Israelis, that means freedom,” Secret Flights co- founder Yaneev Lanis told The Jerusalem Post. “We only get 15 days of vacation here, so we want to use them well.” 
While some users enjoyed boasting of spectacular deals, such as flying abroad for the price of a pack of cigarettes, the majority of members shared tips and know-how on a great number of other issues – from how to find out where your luggage is if you’re in an unfamiliar airport to complex questions about visas. 
Due to the high cost of domestic vacations, now reported to be even more expensive, many Israelis view flying abroad not as a luxury but as a necessity. 
As it became clear that the pandemic isn’t going away any time soon, discussions about cheap flights and airline food became pleas for help about whom to talk with to get reimbursed for vacation deals – for some members, weeks in advance. 
“Each airline has its own policy and set of demands,” Lanis told the Post, “we talk about the good airlines that offer compensations such as British Airways, Delta and Israeli flight search-engine Alice, and we warn people against the bad ones that don’t.” 
Lanis is clear that his community is not political, nor does it concern itself with why people are flying abroad.
“We need to keep a close eye on discussions dealing with COVID-19 health regulations, as they often devolve into political rants,” he said.
“We also don’t think it’s our job to tell people what to do on their vacation. If somebody wants to go to a country where gambling is legal to play cards, we won’t withhold information.” 
He pointed out that “99% of Israelis going abroad are normative people,” and that in his mind, Israelis who violate local laws and norms are a fraction of the general population. 
When asked if they plan to expand to include “Secret Cruise” or “Secret Hikes” in the future, Lanis confesses to be an aviation buff and to hold a pilot’s license.
“That’s my true passion,” he said: “I’m sticking to that.” He explained that right now the Secret Flights team is working on rebuilding their service, to offer users even better deals – once the skies are opened again.