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El Al

Passengers Accuse El Al of “Kidnapping” After “Nightmare” Flight Experience

Passengers Accuse El Al of “Kidnapping” After “Nightmare” Flight Experience
Jackie Reddy

Passengers on an El Al flight from New York have accused the carrier of kidnap after what’s been termed as a “nightmare” experience on a delayed flight to Tel Aviv. It’s alleged that some were told that they would be allowed to disembark due to religious reasons, but instead the plane departed JFK.

A group of passengers on a recent Tel Aviv-bound El Al flight have accused the carrier of kidnapping after what some have described as a “nightmare” experienceThe Jerusalem Post reports. The incident occurred last Thursday on-board El Al Flight 002, which was scheduled to depart New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) at 6:30 p.m. local time and to arrive in Tel Aviv during the afternoon of the following day.

However, the outlet reports that the flight’s departure from JFK was delayed by five hours because of snow storms and tardy cabin crew.

Just before its departure from JFK, the outlet reports that “religious passengers began to request stridently to disembark since they realized that the flight would continue into the Sabbath on Friday evening, a violation of Jewish religious law.”

This group of travelers, according to the outlet, were intent upon exiting the plane, a point that allegedly delayed the craft further. Others, however, have denied that this confrontation took place, but have offered their criticism of crew in their treatment of those who wanted to disembark for religious reasons.

It seems that, despite being told that the plane would return to the gate, the craft instead departed JFK.

Speaking of the incident, passenger Yehudit Rossler told the outlet, “We were locked in a cage … The people we trusted to take us safely to Israel were in their cabin not talking to us and leaving the flight attendants to talk to us.”

“They kidnapped us from New York. They told us we were going back to the gate, and took off instead,” Rossler added.

Offering his comments on the incident, Gonen Usishkin has said, “I decided to put together an investigative committee that would research all of the events that occurred on flight 002 and all of the witness accounts and arguments. The committee will present its results and recommendations soon and afterwards, I will make decisions on the topic.”

It is alleged that some of the flight’s passengers are planning on taking legal action against the carrier.

[Photo: Getty Images]

View Comments (17)


  1. Mordor2112

    November 20, 2018 at 3:41 am

    That was a slick move by El Al, say they’re heading back and suddenly bye-bye NY! Good for them. To those complaining I bet their chosen superstitious entity didn’t mind.

  2. KenTarmac

    November 20, 2018 at 4:24 am

    Oy vey.

  3. thesaints

    November 20, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Did these religious passengers have “intermediaries” to interact with the crew ?

  4. strickerj

    November 20, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Much as I’m bewildered by some religious customs, it was pretty rotten of them to say they’re returning to the gate and then take off, if that’s what happened. These are still your customers, and El Al should certainly be well versed enough in Jewish customs to understand their perspective. To call this “kidnapping” is a bit extreme though.

  5. Paella747

    November 20, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Debate aside, that is an awesome shot of the 747 taking off.
    I’ve always loved the El Al font, and mix of the Latin and Hebrew titles on the side. With those flowing lines reaching to the tail, and the Star of David…. beautiful…….

  6. thesaints

    November 20, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    “We were locked in a cage … The people we trusted to take us safely to Israel were in their cabin not talking to us”
    Where they in the cargo hold ? Is he referring to the pilots ?


    November 21, 2018 at 5:07 am

    How predictable, the same people that accuse others of hate are ignorantly displaying their own hatred here in the comments. Go and stalk somewhere else. What El Al did was unacceptable. People choose this airline over others specifically to avoid this kind of incident. Glad I fly Delta to Israel.

  8. MitchR

    November 21, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Religious superstition? It’s in the Ten Commandments. These passengers were observant Jews who take the Commandment seriously. They booked a flight that should have had them there in plenty of time to observe the Sabbath. I would think that El Al of all airlines would have known better. This was not a huge inconvenience to the other passengers. Taxi back to the gate, drop the passengers and move on. I am more concerned with the comments comparing a reasonable religious observance (that the passengers planned around but the airline disregarded) to superstitions or practices that impinge on the rights of others regardless of the circumstances. I missed a connection once due to an airline screw up. When I asked for a voucher for a hotel the gate agent said “so you’re going to Jew me out of a voucher.” I called to ask what the first class meal would be on a flight during Passover (so that I could bring on food if I needed to) and the CSR said “we don’t support non-standard religions.” Let’s all be a bit more tolerant.

  9. M60_to_LGA

    November 21, 2018 at 7:29 am

    אלוהים לא קיים

  10. li200

    November 21, 2018 at 7:35 am

    Since ElAl does not fly on the jewish Shabbat (friday night – saturday night) they could not fly into Tel Aviv anyway. The plane landed in Athens, were religious passengers spent the next day, and non-religious had to wait for another flight to get to Israel.
    ElAl would have done everyone a great service by letting everyone off the plane and re-accomodating passengers willing to fly on another airline’s direct flight (plentiful from JFK) instead of stranding them in Athens.

    The real issue here is ElAl crew lying to the passengers, telling them that they will allow them to disembark, then taking off. No matter what you think of people’s religious decisions, crew blatantly lying to passengers is unconscionable.

  11. snidely

    November 21, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    This class, is the only one seems to have given all the details. It is unbelievable that a major airport shuts down for religious reasons. I doubt that the Orthodox religious fanatics come even close to making a majority of the country.

  12. holloway1000

    November 22, 2018 at 1:38 am

    putting aside the religious aspect of this, its worth noting what was happening in New York on the day in question.
    I was trying to fly out of EWR at the same time.
    It was the first snow of the year, and there were over 400 traffic accidents closing several major roads. at least one of the bridges was closed due to a multi vehicle crash.
    A lot of flights were canceled, and a lot were delayed. there are other reports of flights being held for 5 hours. with one person on here saying there inbound flight took 5 hours to get a gate for disembarkation.

    While the pilots may well have been intending to go back to a gate, i think its fair in this situation that if ATC give you a slot, you take it.

  13. kkua

    November 22, 2018 at 10:24 am

    The crew did the best job balancing the entire plane full of circumstances. The crew was late because the roads in the entire metro NYC area were gridlocked. I know because I was caught in the storm. It snowed in the morning and didn’t warm up fast enough to melt all the snow and became ice. All the double length city busses jack-knifed as they slid all over the iced roads as they made wide turns. Consequently, these busses block every road.

    The crew were on time leaving their hotel, but was delayed getting to airport because they travel together in a group shuttle service. Once at JFK, they were rushed to get the plane off the ground. The plane and crew were probably due somewhere else before being too out of position. Best choice is to fly and land before sundown close enough to TLV. If the passengers were left behind in NYC, they may not be able to secure themselves another seat until many days later due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays.

    The passengers may cry foul but I commend the airline staff because they came up with a reasonably good compromise for all stakeholders.

  14. MitchR

    November 24, 2018 at 11:15 am

    It was a terrible customer service situation, but I am more surprised at the commenters who would think that a religious belief is a ‘superstition’ or something that can be ignored. Whether or not you agree with them they are entitled to practice their religious beliefs. If the flight had taken off as scheduled, no one would have been affected. I am a reformed Jew, thus not as observant, but I have gotten a large serving of intolerance over the years. I had a transcontinental flight that departed at 8 am and arrived at 5 pm. It was during Passover and I had paid for a First Class seat so I called ahead of time to see what the meals were. The CSR told me that it would be hard to find out (really?) and that they couldn’t accomodate “non-standard religions.” I informed her that I just wanted to know so that I could carry something on if I needed to. It took her all of 30 seconds to pull up the flight and determine that the choices for a sandwich and pizza. The had a vegetarian option of a salad so I took that. No big deal for me but apparently a huge imposition on the CSR. I missed a connection due to an airline screw up (my inbound flight was two hours late, but it was the same equipment as my outbound fight and they had given up my seat even though they knew that I was on the flight). It was the last flight out so I asked for the Gate Agent what to do. She said “Well I guess that you are going to Jew me out of a voucher.” The Tel Aviv Airport is closed on Saturdays, Chick Fil A is closed on Sundays.
    The world is intolerant enough without people being called out as unreasonable, superstitious, or “non-standard.”

  15. mvoight

    November 26, 2018 at 6:08 am

    For ANY airline to tell passengers they are going back to the gate, and then take off, this would be a BAD thing. The fact this was EL AL is much worse.
    If there is any airline in the world that should understand Jewish customs and beliefs, this would be the one. thre
    For the person who mentioned they were surprised the main airport was closed on the Sabbath, that is not correct. The airport is closed. I suspect El Al employees are not working there during Shabat. On the other hand, good luck with finding public transit then.

  16. J S

    November 26, 2018 at 10:29 am

    TLV is definitely open on Saturday. It only closes for one day per year (Yom Kippur). El Al, on the other hand, does not fly on Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath that begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday).

    I get why the observant Jewish pax were upset. That is legitimate. However, there is not enough information here to really lay the blame in the correct place. El Al seems to have ensured that these passengers were not en route during Shabbat (by landing in ATH). Hopefully, the airline made arrangements for non-observant pax to continue on to TLV Friday night. What we don’t know is whether a further delay at JFK to deplane the observant pax and off load their luggage might have resulted in all pax being stuck in JFK for 48 hours (until Saturday night), which would have been very frustrating for them.

    Finally, “kidnapped” is a gross exaggeration (as others have noted).

  17. J S

    November 26, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Just to add: While we don’t have the details, it is likely that the decision to fly to ATH ensured that all of the pax got to TLV earlier than they otherwise would have. The observant pax could leave ATH sometime Saturday night and arrive in TLV shortly thereafter (short flight) as opposed to taking off from JFK very late Saturday night and arriving at TLV late Sunday. Non-observant pax could probably get to TLV on Friday night on a flight from ATH.

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