Israeli Airlines Are Cutting Flights Because There Aren’t Enough Security Agents
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Israel’s national carrier, El Al, has taken the unusual step of paring back its summer schedule, because of the lack of security personnel.
The problem is there are too few security agents to go around at airports served by Israeli airlines outside Israel, and without enough agents on the ground, some flights won’t be taking off. Sun d’Or, an El Al charter subsidiary, has reportedly already canceled summer flights between Tel Aviv and Ibiza and Corsica. Some flights from Haifa to Pafos in Cyprus on a different Israeli airline have been cancelled as well.
Excellent and thorough security is one of El Al’s trademarks. Owing to Israel’s unique security situation, apart from the security agents working at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport (TLV) itself there are more than 950 Israeli security agents stationed at airports outside Israel’s borders. But as Israelis travel overseas more and more, the number of security agents hasn’t kept pace. That in part prompted El Al’s outgoing CEO, David Maimon, to urge Israel’s Foreign Ministry to take action—which could be crucial because in Israel it’s the government that not only trains airport screeners but also funds their placement abroad.
El Al actually manages the security of the other Israeli airlines operating overseas flights, namely Israir and Arkia. Maimon wrote to the ministry that “Due to the limitations, El Al’s security division will not be able to provide aviation security services for all expected flights of Israeli airlines…and cannot grant approval to airlines for the summer 2018 schedule, which begins in March.”
All told Israeli airlines are short about 200 agents for the overseas airports concerned, and timing is critical. Even if the Foreign Ministry comes up with the funding this month, it could take at least a month to hire and deploy agents, and it may already be too late. Security has to be in place before airlines can guarantee that they can actually service the routes. So more cancellations could be in store in the weeks to come.
The good news is that the long-haul flights El Al’s US customers are most likely to be booking — like the Newark to Tel Aviv flight on the new 787 Dreamliner we recently reviewed — are unaffected.
The cancellations could still drive up ticket prices on low-cost carriers like WOW Air as Israelis look to alternatives if flights that they already booked or were planning to book on Israeli airlines are scrapped. Given the long flying times from the United States to Israel, many travelers prefer to make a European stopover en route to Tel Aviv. Airlines like WOW (which we also reviewed recently) and Aegean are increasingly promoting their Tel Aviv routes, but now some of those flights could get more crowded, and possibly pricier.
As Israeli travel abroad has boomed — Ben Gurion reports a surge of more than 16% in passengers flying into and out of the airport over the last year or so — airlines like Arkia which were historically known for making cheap domestic runs between Tel Aviv and the Red Sea resort of Eilat have expanded their routes, nipping at El Al’s heels. The airline is struggling financially and some sources tell TPG that the much touted recent addition of the 787 Dreamliner to the fleet is no antidote to the competitive market blues: at the time Maimon announced his resignation in November 2017, El Al’s stock price had tumbled 52% from what it was a year prior. And if El Al does not manage to achieve 30% market share in Israel this year (as is being widely reported in Israeli media) the discounted fees it typically gets from the Israel Airports Authority may not be forthcoming.
In the meantime, Israeli business site Globes reports that Nir Dagan, the CEO of Arkia Airlines, has complained to the Israeli Finance Ministry that “the time has come to remove from El Al the monopoly on security services… in the light of El Al’s management failure and the discriminatory practices it has used against its competitors for years.” That’s going to be a problem for El Al’s incoming CEO, Gonen Usishkin, to face when he takes up the reins later in February.
While both El Al and Arkia declined to comment for this story, a spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emanuel Nachshon, said “we are working on a solution” to the security agents issue, “and we believe the problem will be solved.”
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees