Israeli airlines' winter schedules still at risk

El Al   photo: Sivan Farag

The Ministry of Foreign affairs is adamant that it will stop employing flight security personnel overseas in January.

"Our stance on the matter has not changed," Israel's Ministry of Foreign affairs stated in response to an inquiry from "Globes", two and a half months before the date on which the ministry is due to cease employing the security personnel of the three Israeli airlines. At stake is the future of some 1,200 people working at airports around the world from which El Al, Israir and Arkia operate flights, and the airlines' flight schedules themselves.

In recent months, the ministry has repeatedly warned the security division of El Al, which also provides security services for Arkia and Israir, that employment of the security personnel will cease in January 2019, a date that is rapidly approaching. The ministry appears to be insisting on its position, placing the winter schedule of the Israeli airlines in jeopardy. Given rising competition from foreign airlines flying to and from Israel, there could be considerable harm to the Israeli companies.

Flight security for Israeli airlines operating from overseas airports is subject to definitions and guidelines set by the Israel Security Agency (ISA). The representatives who examine passengers flying to Israel on El Al (including its Sun d'Or subsidiary), Arkia, and Israir at overseas airports are in fact employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with all that that implies for their status. The ministry is now in effect telling El Al that it will have to find solutions by itself, which could mean employing local security personnel, changing a system that has been in place for many years.

The Ministry of Finance pays 90% of the overseas security costs of Israeli airlines, amounting to hundreds of millions of shekels annually. In the past, a similar warning from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ended in a compromise whereby the Ministry of Finance allocated more job slots for security workers and financed the employment of lawyers at El Al to find solutions to disputes involving those workers, who, although they are employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are not in a day to day employer-worker relationship with it.

Last Thursday, El Al chairman Eli Defes wrote to Eytan Ben-David, acting head of the National Security Council, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief of staff Yoav Horowitz, claiming that El Al had been notified by telephone in August that the question of employment of the security personnel had been resolved. "Accordingly, you gave approval to El Al's security division to publish the winter schedules of the Israeli airlines," Defes wrote. Not for the first time, Defes argued that without the deployment of Ministry of Foreign Affairs security personnel, the Israeli airlines' security operation cannot function. The upshot of terminating their employment, according to him, is "the grounding of all Israeli flights."

Will the Ministry of Foreign Affairs back down at the last minute? Who will come to the rescue of the Israeli airlines, which find themselves at a disadvantage against the foreign airlines, which receive subsidies from the Ministry of Tourism to encourage them to fly to Israel? What is clear is that this affair is far from over.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 14, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

El Al   photo: Sivan Farag
El Al photo: Sivan Farag
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