The El Al night flight to New York, originally scheduled to leave at 12:45 a.m. Friday, was delayed for hours.
A number of El Al pilots didn’t show up for their flights on Thursday evening, calling in “sick”, apparently protesting against the side effects of El Al’s creation of a budget airline service called “Up”.
The pilots protested against their employment terms, complaining of a heavy workload and of resulting tiredness. The pilots claim they are flying too many hours, and have too many last-minute itinerary changes as of late. The pilots demand that El Al hire more pilots to lighten the load.
El Al management said in a statement, "El Al has recently been compelled to cope with disruptions to its schedule and the deployment of its aircraft because of the unavailability of pilots and their lack of response to the company's appeals to them to carry out flights."
Many passengers were furious and shouted at the gate attendants, but some were somewhat sympathetic to the pilots. A statement by the pilots union said “We are sorry about the company’s travelers who were harmed.
"Unfortunately, an impossible situation was created in our 737 fleet in which, within a day, there were between five and 10 flights without pilots assigned. The pilots need to agree to do these flights in addition to the busy existing flight plan. One cannot demand that the pilots fly tired when they are already doing well beyond the number of hours acceptable around the world. We hope the company’s management will find a quick and effective solution as quickly as possible, and we will of course pitch in as always.”