Labor dispute forces El Al to cancel participation in Independence Day flyover
Israel’s national airline El AL canceled its participation in this year’s Independence Day flyover due to a labor dispute between the company’s pilots’ union and the maintenance workers’ union.
Company mechanics are said to have quit their posts as part of the dispute on Thursday morning, preventing El Al from joining the festive flyover.
“We regret that El Al was unable to attend Israel’s 74th Independence Day flyover. This is a serious incident. We are learning the details and will fix the issue so it does not happen again in the future,” the company said in a statement.
Thursday’s incident came after several commercial flights were canceled in recent days as passengers were told their flights had been canceled due to “operational circumstances”.
The maintenance workers’ union accused the company’s pilots of canceling 11 flights in recent days. The mechanics’ protest, the union said, was coordinated with other El Al workers and was intended as an act of solidarity with passengers whose flights were canceled.
“If the pilots can participate in the overflight, they can operate the flights,” the union said.
Another employee told the new Ynet site that “pilots have no shame. We haven’t had a job for two years [amid the COVID pandemic] and now that we’re finally back, they do what they want. It is unacceptable that hundreds of El Al passengers are suffering because of their behavior. Flights don’t leave and people are stranded but the festive flyover continues as normal? It does not mean anything.
The pilots’ union rejected the allegations, saying the pilots are “working within the law and within safety protocols”. The union noted, however, that El Al management has asked pilots from bereaved families to “participate” in recent days and even miss ceremonies held on Wednesday, the day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers.
A representative speaking on behalf of the pilots’ union criticized maintenance workers for only caring about “petty politics”.
“Maintainers should focus on maintenance and making sure flights get off the ground safely, and stop dealing with petty union politics,” he said, saying “wages for general employees and maintenance agents were not modified while the wages of the pilots were reduced by 50%”.
Some passengers were notified of the cancellation of their flights just hours before the scheduled take-off time, according to Israel Hayom.
“It’s incredible, we were told that our flight was canceled a few hours in advance. We are stuck in Dubai,” an Israeli passenger told Israel Hayom.
Other passengers said they had trouble getting a response from El Al when calling the company’s customer service numbers.
El Al said in a statement that it had been “forced to cancel a number of flights for operational reasons beyond our control”. With the help of all unions and all sectors, we are making efforts to resume services. El Al teams are currently working to find other flights for our customers or suitable alternatives.