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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It's come to this...

Good evening from JFK airport in New York. I'm on my way home.

Unfortunately, my blog is not allowing me to post pictures right now (if I can add one later I will), or I would post a screen cap I took from the Ben Gurion Airport arrivals website from October 27 (now added). Were I to post it, you would see that the present 'crisis' involving El Al's pilots playing games with the rules goes back a lot longer than the last week or so that it has been in the news. In fact, tomorrow will be my 14th El Al flight of the year, and at least seven of those flights have been an hour or more late. El Al is last in the world in on-time flight performance, and no, it's not because of security.

So it's come to this....
In light of the situation, El Al has announced a temporary change of policy, and will allow customers to cancel tickets for a full refund without incurring a penalty. The change will be in effect on all El Al flights scheduled through November 30, and will also allow passengers to reschedule flights free of charge.

Seven El Al officials resigned in recent days because of the crisis, including the chief pilot, Ido Sharon, and the fleet managers and chief pilots of a number of El Al fleets, Channel 2 reported on Sunday night.

Sources close to El Al management revealed to The Jerusalem Post that a solution to the crisis is not expected soon, unless there is an intervention by a third party, such as the government, the labor courts or even the Histadrut labor federation.

MK Eitan Cabel, chairman of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, dubbed the goings-on “a crisis” on Sunday, and will convene an emergency session of the committee on Thursday. Cabel announced that he will be meeting the representatives of the pilots and the management, separately, before the committee meets.

Meanwhile, both sides remain adamant in their positions and continue playing a blame game while fighting for public opinion.

“Unfortunately, El Al pilots are continuing their outrageous behavior. Seventeen captains and 16 first officers refused to man a flight, causing damage to the company, clients and fellow El Al employees,” an El Al representative said on Sunday.

The El Al pilots committee, on the other hand, lays the full blame on the management and denies the allegations against the pilots. In a statement issued by the committee on Sunday, the committee said, “[El Al] management is harming hundreds of passengers tonight. Flights were canceled despite there actually being enough pilots ready and available to man them.”

Indeed the pilots are available to fly, but pilots are only willing to man flights in one direction and demand being flown back in business class.

The common practice in El Al, and indeed in every major airline, is for pilots to fly the aircraft in both directions. If pilots are only willing to work on one direction, it means El Al has to dispatch two crews with every flight, paying double the number of work hours as well as for the non-working crew’s business class fares.

Until last week, El Al management begrudgingly accepted this practice in order to keep things running smoothly. Eventually, however, with no resolution to the dispute in sight, the airline decided to take a harder line.
The article goes on to  say that the pilots work 75-85 hours per month.  For which they are well-paid.
In documents submitted to the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court last week, it was revealed that the average El Al flight captain’s monthly salary was NIS 96,756, with the average pilot’s salary being NIS 94,832. Both had seen constituted increases compared with the previous year.

The wage increases came with an increase in work hours as well, going up to an average of 81 hours a month as of June 2016, compared with 74 as of December 2016.
Note that's an average wage.  At an exchange rate of NIS 3.80 or so to  the dollar.... you can do the math. It's a heck of lot more than most Israelis make - many multiples.

On other airlines, pilots fly the aircraft in both directions. But they work in  both directions. Not El Al.

Grrr.

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