Will El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) lose ticket sales in the wake of the affair of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) passengers who allegedly delayed the airline's flight 002 from New York to Tel Aviv because of their refusal to sit beside women? In a post on LinkedIn, Barak Eilam, CEO of Israeli technology company NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE; TASE: NICE), sounds unequivocal about it. "At NICE we don't do business with companies that discriminate against race, gender or religion. NICE will not fly @EL AL Israel Airlines until they change their practice and actions discriminating women," his post reads. Eilam linked to his post a news item on the story that attracted huge attention on the Internet last week, in which El Al passengers describe what happened on the plane at Kennedy Airport.
In response, El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said yesterday evening, "The post by the CEO of Nice was made hastily without checking the facts, and I made that clear in a call with him. The El Al personnel who dealt with the incident did so with due sensitivity. Anyone who flies on the national airline senses the values on which we built the company: an egalitarian company that makes no distinctions on the basis of religion, race or gender. For the removal of doubt, today I ordered that the procedures on this matter should be tightened, and in future any passenger who refuses to sit beside another passenger will immediately be removed from the flight."
According to the account of one passenger, four haredim who boarded the flight caused a delay and a commotion after refusing to sit beside women. According to this account, the group would not agree to discuss the matter with air hostesses, and male crew members tried to persuade passengers to move from their seats. In the end, two female passengers consented to do so. The report made waves and raised several questions. Could such a situation come about on any other airline? Is the whiff of discrimination that arises from the story acceptable at El Al, which has been dragged into court over the issue in the past?
Now a further question arises. Will El Al lose business customers following Nice's example? Nice alone is a large company whose employees probably fly hundreds if not thousands of times annually in aggregate, flights worth millions of shekels. Presumably a substantial proportion of these flights are on El Al.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 26, 2018
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