Extra fee for presidential travel an embarrassment to EL AL

Take an airline that, in spite of being privatised, is still considered the national airline and, on the other hand, a strange approach towards a national symbol such as the state president and you get an embarrassing incident. This leads to asking, “How did this incident happen?”.

Any business should be based on commercial rules, but also on what is referred to as “sensitivity to the environment”, and this time not in the context of pollution. Last week Israeli airline EL AL lacked that sensitivity, which caused the the national airline huge embarrassment and even commercial damage.

Israeli president Shimon Peres flew on Sunday to Canada for an official visit on an Air Canada flight that took off from Ben Gurion international airport.

With no Israeli equivalent of Air Force One for leaders, before every official visit abroad, the prime minister’s or the president’s office issues a tender to one of the airlines. The preference, of course, is an Israeli airline. This time EL AL submitted an offer.

One of the demands for air travel for 88-year-old Peres is that his personal paramedic will have an oxygen tank on board. When EL AL got that demand, it asked for an extra $4,700.

The president’s office thanked EL AL and within hours obtained an offer from the Israeli office of Air Canada.

Air Canada offered a significantly lower price for the president’s travel, and did not ask for an extra charge for in-cabin storage for the oxygen tank.

After the tickets were issued, EL AL finally understood that a big mistake had been made – but that was too late.

The EL AL official comment was strange, like the decision itself. A spokesman for the airline said: “We salute the president.”

The pilots of EL AL were furious and their association chairman, Captain Nir Zook, sent a letter of apology to the president.

So instead of EL AL appearing on almost every TV screen in the world this week, Air Canada will be there, benefiting from EL AL’s lack of sensitivity.

In my opinion, EL AL’s recent financial loss, even before the open skies agreement with the EU has been signed, caused its management to lose its cool. In the aviation business, this is a bad thing.

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