El Al Plane Has Engine Failure, Flies Another Five Hours To Save Money

In terms of stories which can’t help but make you scratch your head, an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to New York on Wednesday returned to Tel Aviv over an engine failure.

El-Al-747

Engine failures happens every so often, and aren’t at all unusual or even noteworthy. What is unusual, however, is that the plane was already halfway through the flight when it had that engine failure, and made the decision to return to Tel Aviv, rather than diverting. Via Haaretz:

The Boeing 747-400 airliner, carrying 340 passengers, took off at 11:30 A.M. from Ben Gurion International Airport. Shortly after reaching the Atlantic Ocean, the pilot turned off one of the plane’s four engines due to a technical malfunction.  But instead of making an emergency landing, the pilot turned the airplane back.

Here was the flight’s path, via FlightAware:

Flightaware

As you can see, the flight’s duration was 10hr52min. Meanwhile the flight time from Tel Aviv to New York is usually 11 hours. So the flight was quite literally at the halfway point, just leaving continental Europe and beginning the Atlantic crossing

So what prompted El Al to return to Tel Aviv, rather than either continuing the flight or diverting somewhere closer?

Sources in the aviation industry believe that the decision to turn the airliner back instead of landing it in Europe was not prompted by safety reasons alone, but by financial reasons as well. An emergency landing in Europe would have required El Al to send a replacement engine to Europe and to pay for the passengers’ stay in hotels until the plane is repaired.

El Al said in response: “Due to a malfunction in one of the four engines, it was decided to return the airliner to land in Ben Gurion International Airport. The plane is currently over Europe and is expected for a normal landing in the evening.”

El Al added that after the airliner lands, “the passengers would be transferred to alternative flights. El-Al considers flight safety a top priority and doesn’t compromise on the issue.”

My initial thoughts here are:

  • No one was in danger. A 747 can easily fly with three engines, and I even remember the story about a decade ago about a British Airways 747 which flew all the way from Los Angeles to London on three engines.
  • Did the pilots feel safe flying with three engines over land, but not over water? After all, they were halfway to New York, so otherwise they could have just continued.
  • It sure seems like El Al was just being cheap here, and wanted to rebook passengers on their own flights, do maintenance at their own hub, etc., even if it was significantly more inconvenient for passengers.

Bottom line

This is a bit of a crazy story. Based on my read of it, I wouldn’t accuse El Al of endangering passengers’ lives to save a few bucks, but rather just inconveniencing them substantially for some cost savings.

What do you make of El Al returning to Tel Aviv halfway through their flight to New York? 

Comments

  1. Honestly i dont see it as a big deal, most people on these flights have family in tel aviv, keep kosher and im sure theyd rather go back to tel aviv than land in some country they might have a hard time getting food etc.

    Among other things europe isnt the safest place for jews these days anyway.

    As far as safety goes elal has an impeccable record so i wouldnt question them on that either.

  2. Is it necessarily less convenient for passengers to be returned to their carrier’s hub, where they are likely to have plenty of ground staff/infrastructure to deal with rebooking and plenty of flights available (or even a replacement a/c) than to be dumped in a European airport where there will be no ground support to rebook them and maybe not enough seats on alternative flights for them to be rebooked? After all, with a non-critical mechanical issue they’re not going to get a landing slot in a hub but rather will end up in some second-grade EU airport with maybe a few TATL flights.

  3. i don’t think you have a right to ridicule the only country in the middle east that wouldn’t stone you for you for who you are

  4. God forbid the company make a sound business/operational decision. If they had diverted, chances are the passengers would have been stranded somewhere for hours. Flights from Europe to the U.S. are booked solid right now as it is the busiest travel time of the year. You say that El Al was being “cheap” by not wanting to book passengers on other airlines. Even if they had diverted, they could have flown in their own metal to transport the passengers on to New York. Please stop trying to be an expert on everything aviation related and complaining about every decision an airline makes.

  5. I can fully understand that they did not continue to New York as they are not allowed to cross the Atlantic Area as an engine inop is not allowed on the NAT Routes.

    As the airline requires extra safety measures in European airport I agree that the best option was to return to Tel Aviv. It happens often when pilots prefer a longer flight back to the home base where it is easier to get spare parts and easier to find a hotel or replacement crew. At the end I think it would have been faster like this than to divert, accommodate all passengers and fly in another plane and crew.

  6. Believe me, passengers would have been far more inconvenienced by diverting to an airport in Europe. Depending on their nationality and visa status, they could have been spending a few days in detention centers, even if it was no fault of theirs.

    I’m curious what cost SAVINGS they may have incurred by flying an additional 5 hours back to Tel Aviv as opposed to landing in Europe or even continuing to New York? Fuel burn on the B747 is a humongous cost.

    Whoever thinks that an en-route diversion likely above MLW to an airport with line station support at best is the smart course of action really doesn’t understand how an SMS and CRM work.

  7. There is a flaw in your math. A plane travels faster with 4 engines than with 3. So while the decision may be suspect, they were not at the halfway point

  8. I dont’t think this is too far off the norm as well. I read about a similar incident with a Lufthansa B747 en route to Buenos Aires which returned to FRA after the pilots discovered some technical issue (not an engine failure in this case) more than four hours into the flight. You might argue that it would have been much easier to find some accomodation for the passengers of the El Al aircraft at a European airport than it would have been for Lufthansa somewhere in western Africa, but it probably wouldn’t have gotten the El Al passengers to New York much sooner had they diverted the plane to some European airport (at least not all of them as there probably are not several hundred empty seats on other aircraft available from any potential diversion airport). The best scenario for the passengers might have been El Al sending a replacement aircraft and letting the passengers just change aircraft somewhere in between; but those things don’t happen all that often (at least not within a few hours) as most airlines don’t have idle aricraft (and crew!) standing around just waiting for an emergency service. So returning all the way to Tel Aviv doesn’t seem to be such a bad decision to me.

  9. I would venture that it did have to do with security issues over financial reasons. Since it was El Al, security is always a paramount factor for them and returning to Israel is likely the preferred course in such an event as this.

  10. Dear Ben,

    I have become a big fan of yours over the past year, and the word “mentch” (Yiddish for a good person who does the right thing) has frequently come to mind when I see how you respect your parents and serve your readers. But this posting gave me pause.

    I know you have German citizenship. I do not know your ethnicity, and for all I know, maybe you, too, are Jewish. But as a German citizen, I would think that you would be especially sensitive to the possibility that your posting could be perceived as anti-Semitic. Any association of Jewish people or, in this case, the Jewish State, and money saving may be perceived as anti-Semitic. Who are your “sources” in the aviation industry making the assertion that El Al’s decision was based on cost savings?

    As the other posters have already noted, there are a number of possible reasons that the pilot and airline made the decision they made. Effectively calling El Al “penny pinching Jews” is inappropriate and offensive.

    I hope you will accept this criticism in the spirit in which it is offered, namely constructively and with respect and admiration for the mentch I perceive you to be.

  11. I agree with Lucky. The overwhelming support shown to the airline here is because it is an Israeli airline. Heaven forbid we say anything about the Jews (which also incidentally explains the ‘cheap’ part).

  12. @zow typical jew, everything is anti-Semitic… btw that term is itself is a lie, which is typical for jews/zionists/Israelis to co-op something is totally not theirs to take..thieving rats, look up what semitic means. Americans have been trained very well to fear the cries of the ADL, try and see if I give a shit.

    And just coz they have a bunch of gays in Israel does not mean anything to be honest. I boycott the terrorist state of israel !!

  13. @zow

    While I may agree with the other comments that there might be other potential reasons for returning to TLV, but your comment is ridiculous.

    How does Jews or the Jewish state come into the discussion?

    You expect Lucky not write his honest opinion about this incident just because the airline happens to be the flag carrier of the Jewish state?

  14. This is what Ben wrote about an **airline**: “It sure seems like El Al was just being cheap here”

    This is how some readers responded (and many others concuring) : “i don’t think you have a right to ridicule the only **country** in the middle east…”, “I know you have German **citizenship**… your posting could be perceived as anti-Semitic. Any association of **Jewish people** or, in this case, the **Jewish State**, and money saving may be perceived as anti-Semitic…” [emphasis mine].

    So, a comment (or criticism at worst) about an airline can be twisted and distorted to become a slur on the whole country and its entire citizenry and ethnic group? I don’t call that nationalism or patriotism. I call that being paranoid! You (i.e. those readers who made such comments or who agree with such comments, not the entire country or its citizens or ethnic group!) are not a victim of any racism or discrimination. Stop painting yourself as a victim. Geez.

  15. @Jay,

    You are nothing better than @zow.

    One blames the world for all the Jewish problems while the other blames the Jews for all the world’s problems.

    What’s the difference?

    Why can’t we tolerate each other like civilized adults?

  16. @zow as a jew myself, you are being overly dramatic, calm down. Ben never once made any reference to ElAl being penny pinchers, nor did he even use the terms Jew or Jewish. He made no association to the religion of Israel, just the airline and its decision. He never implied anything, you just inferred it. If United decided to do the same thing, Ben likely would’ve had the same reaction.

    All this aside, they did it to save the hassle of having to fly all of their passengers from an airport where ElAl likely has no ground staff or minimal at best. While, yes it severely inconvenienced the passengers, they can at least get home on ElAl metal. Someone else made a good point about those who keep kosher who would prefer to be stranded in Ben Gurion vs almost any other airport.

  17. Oh man the Internet is awesome.

    Ben is of German descent so he must hate Jews? Of the 400 reasons that El Al could have done something, it’s because they’re cheap Jews?

    Normally I have to pay for this much comedy. Thanks all. Keep doing what you’re doing.

    Oh, and Ben – there was nothing wrong in this post.

    Signed,

    A NY Jew.

  18. Ben,

    Keep in mind United and Goose Bay, I’m sure if it had been possible those passengers would have wished to return to Chicago.

  19. A german insulting jews.
    I’m shocked!

    What next? he’ll complain about the muslim stance on homosexuality while swishing about fawning for Tim Clark?

  20. I think El Al did the right thing, its less of an inconvenience for these passengers to return to Tel Aviv, where El Al can just switch engines or grab another 747 or 777 and re-schedule the flight. Thats far easier to manage then to then have to rebook 300+ passengers on many other fights to NY, set them up in hotels across whatever city they landed in and now deal with kosher food, etc…. If i was on that plane, i would have also preferred to head back to Tel Aviv. Ben, I think you should take a trip to Tel Aviv, plenty of Oneworld airlines flying there. You will then understand the feeling, and probably also preferred to have returned to sunny TLV instead of sending just another night in a random european city. Try TLV, you’ll love it ! To all those with the comments about the anti semitic remarks, this subject forum. Ben reports on his flight experiences and shares his views with us, so these remarks have no place here. And to all those BDS’ers out there boycotting Israel, calling git a terrorist state, GET A LIFE !!!! Go there in person, see the situation for yourself on the ground, and then boycott Israel, or decide not to, but don’t just blindly believe all the reports and lies we are fed daily in the press.

  21. The Chinese is very fond of such antics – associating every criticism of them as a onslught on their entire country. That’s why MH370 Chinese victims, for example, carried their national flag to Malaysia to protest and said repeatedly: “the Chinese people and China cannot be bullied”, as if the MH370 incident is a dispute between two countries! That’s also why when Ben made that not-so-glowing post on China Southern Airlines, some Chinese readers felt their country has been embarrassed, and commented along the line “on behalf of the Chinese people, I apologize…”. Conversely when Ben reviewed favorably on the helpfulness of some hotel staff at a Beijing hotel, some Chinese readers again commented: “as a Chinese, I feel proud that…. I am writing to feedback to the hotel staff that they have put China in a good light, by helping our foreign friends…” (paraphrased)

    What garbage! What is there to be proud of as a Chinese, that some hotel staff has performed well? The pride is reserved for those hotel staff (and at most the hotel) and no one else. Individuals represent themselves (and at most their organization), not the entire country or citizens (unless he/she is the President or Ambassador of the country!) So, to such people, I say: stop thinking too highly of yourself. You are not that important as to reflect badly or well on the whole coutnry. And please, don’t ever be such an ego maniac to think you can represent the whole country to “apologize on behalf of the Chinese people”.

    I used to think such egoistic nonsense is displayed only by the Chinese. Looks like that’s not the case. Some other country’s citizenry has this tendency to be that egoistic and paranoid too. Fancy turning a simple comment about an airlines to the slighting of an entire country / ethnic group! Maybe when a country and its citizens has been subjected to some grave past wrong, many of its citizens will grow up being paranoid and regard any “attack” of an individual as an onslaught of the entire nation, and any priase of an individual as an approval of the whole motherland? Hmmm..

  22. This thread is hilarious.

    Back on topic, I’d wager that El Al’s definition of ‘safety’ isn’t about the aircraft’s ability to continue flying on 3 engines, but the security of its pax and cargo. Let’s remember this is the airline that employs some of the – if not the most – extreme security policies and systems in commercial aviation. A diversion to the nearest alternate may have resulted in a compromise of that security for anything or anyone they were carrying that might be considered a target.

  23. @joel No I do not blame the jews for the world’s problems.. no exactly anyways that is not what I said… I said that they like to use this anti semitic bullshit to label and tar ANYONE or ANYTHING that is remotely anti israeli or anti zionist… I am just pointing out a simple fact that even that term is misrepresented and co-opted for their dubious agenda… and yes I boycott lots of things.. it is my right to not spend money and do any business with anyone I choose really.. I happen to enjoy boycotting a few million people… 🙂 if one cannot weed out which jew did or didn’t donate to the zionist cause.. just boycott every single jew.. simple..

  24. “Because they’re cheap”

    Well, that may be a good sound bite for Russia Today or Fox News (cough).

    But this is the flaw in the logic…

    How do we know this is more inconvenient for the passengers? Yes an extra couple hours flying time.

    But getting back to the hub means much faster rebooking and getting them on their way. And for many it also means spending the night at home rather than a hotel.

  25. Meh, I’ve been called a self-hating Jew when I harp on El Al (the airline, not the nation) for their horrendous mileage program, their plastic first class seats, their inexperienced executives who get the job only based on army title, their backwards policies, etc.

    Goes with the territory.

  26. @jay,

    No, Jews don’t “like to use this anti semitic bullshit to label and tar ANYONE or ANYTHING that is remotely anti israeli or anti zionist”.

    I am a Jew and I don’t like doing that al all, as do the others here who identified themselves as Jews.

    It’s just one person who said that.

    You have the right to boycott whomever and whatever you wish.
    Fair or not, you’re free to do whatever you believe in.

    Can we now become friends? 🙂

    Oh, the internet.
    Imagine God created an internet without a comment section.

  27. Ben,
    Of all your blog posts this is the silliest I’ve seen.
    Everyone knows that a flight can still be flown with one failed engine.
    As many people pointed out above, there are Legitimate reasons for why they didn’t do an emergency landing in Europe and with elal’s safety record I do not question their judgement

  28. Getting back to the original discussion, wouldn’t there be far fewer flights for rebooking to NYC from Tel Aviv than from London, Frankfurt, or Paris?

  29. Ben, you always seem to enjoy posting about stories which include El-Al and/or religious jews, and specifically when it puts them in a bad light. Do you have something against Israel? For someone like you I think you would appreciate Israel, being the ONLY country int eh middle east who accept gay people. For a gay person, you seem to spend a lot of time in countries where it is a crime to be gay, but have never been to Israel.

  30. @ Jake — Are you kidding me? When’s the last time I wrote about El Al? I write all the time about things that go wrong with US, Chinese, Indian, and Gulf carriers, much more frequently than I write about El Al. And as far as religion goes, did you have a problem with me (by your standards) “putting down” Christianity when talking about Creflo Dollar? Please point me to all these supposed anti-Jewish/Israel/El Al post I’m making, because I think we might be reading different blogs…

  31. @ Mark — That’s exactly the point I made, that the flight could still safely be flown. There were no safety implications.

  32. @ Greg — It’s an extra 9-10 hours of flying, not an extra “couple” of hours of flying. But there are definitely some valid points above regarding visas, ground handling, etc.

  33. @ John — True, except those passengers were actually somewhat in danger, while there was no danger whatsoever here.

  34. @ zow — I appreciate the feedback and appreciate you reading. To provide a bit of perspective:

    — I’m a quarter Jewish ethnically (my dad’s mother is 100% Jewish), though I’m not religious. I don’t favor any religion over another.
    — I’m not going to apologize for the fact that I have German citizenship, that would be a ridiculous card for me to try and pull.
    — I’m still not clear on what I wrote that could be perceived as anti-Semitic. I shared a story from an Israeli paper, and shared what the experts THEY quoted said.
    — There are absolutely plenty of reasons to return to Tel Aviv, and if anything my goal was to explain that there are possible justifications. Some people were saying that El Al was endangering their passengers, and I was trying to say that *wasn’t* the case.

    So it sort of hurts my feelings that me sharing my honest, non-politically/religious driven thoughts can be perceived that way, when I also have lots of commentary on airlines in India/China/the Gulf region/the US, and am not called anti-Muslim/Hindu/Christian.

    I call things as I see them, and hopefully you can appreciate that.

  35. @ me — Where am I ridiculing a country? I’m sharing commentary on an airline, not a country.

  36. these jews here became more nazzi than original nazzis, what’s wrong with you people, if it was Ethiopean airliner or any other he would write the same nevermind he has german citizenship, today you can talk just about anything but god forbid just to mention someone or something jewish, check your heads people!

  37. Jaja, a German saying or writing something about a topic that is remotely related to Israel -> the old Nazi suspicion.
    If there would have been concerns about the safety of Jewish passengers on board of this plane, a city like Amsterdam, Brussels, London, Paris, and YES even Düsseldorf would haven been a lot safer, than your average bus ride in Jerusalem, despite recent assaults in Europe.

    Ooops, I said it, now put me in the brown bag.

  38. Give Ben a f**** break;
    He is just passing along some information.
    I am Jewish and Israeli and no, not every single criticism of Israel or its entities = anti-semitism or anti-Judaism. You guys need to take a deep breath and MOVE ON.

    Having said that, Haaretz is not exactly the best journalism outlet in Israel. They are very anti-government and anti-establishment and ALWAYS, in every article they write, will find the negative twist.
    Haaretz will say what Haaretz wants to say.

    El Al on the other hand, with its impeccable safety record, can do whatever it wants in case of engine failure as long as they do not put the customers in danger – and they did not;

    I bet they re-accommodated the passengers better than when United cancels a flight.

  39. wow I can imagine the outrage here if there was any words that could be described as homophobic in a blog here. It’s ok though to use the word “cheap” in conjunction with an Israeli airline. Double standard.

  40. As soon as I read the headline, I knew that these comments would get ugly. Racists and anti-Semitic trolls on both sides of the coin came out to play…

    Sad that one can’t cover aviation news without people being disgusting and insulting about race and religion.

  41. El Al like any progressive airline should have STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES that are approved by their version of the DOT (US) in Israel may be returning back to TLV is within procedures.

  42. Ben: the criticism stems from your statement

    “It sure seems like El Al was just being cheap here, . . ., even if it was significantly more inconvenient for passengers.”

    In this case you associated a Jewish stereotype with the flag carrier of the Jewish state. A number of people took that as a sideways attempt to endorse the stereotype. This used to be called a “dog whistle” and I believe the current term of art is a “micro aggression”. Did you realize it as you were writing it? Only you know that. If I had written that phrase I would have been guilty as charged since I would have been aware of the stereotype and its association.

    In an anonymous internet forum like your comments section you’re always going to find people prone to taking offense. And, whether intentionally or not, you provide plenty of opportunities (your use of the phrase “those people” in conjunction with NYC – Miami flights, your shaming of the AA gate agent by name, and your frequent use of video clips of black women immediately come to mind).

    Do you care if you give offense, inadvertently or not? If so, you need to edit your writing better. If not, you can just ignore the comments in this post. I strongly suspect that there’s commercial value in your not caring since offended people are more likely to comment and the more traffic you have the better.

  43. I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t reading comments from a CNN/Foxnews article…

  44. 3 engines = asymmetrical thrust = lower cruising altitude and speed = potentially not enough fuel onboard to make it to destination, deal with changing winds aloft, divert around weather, etc. You have no idea what the situation was in the air, so I fail to see how you can assert they were “just being cheap here”. It would have been much more embarrassing and perhaps dangerous if they ran low on fuel and had to make an emergency landing in Gander and put a 747 load of people into the barracks there.

  45. OMG After reading an interesting article. I then read some of the most ridiculous postings because Ben said El Al is cheap automatically makes him anti-Semitic, what a joke you people are for implying that. If Ben said American Airlines is cheap (which they are) you would all be in agreement with him. Pick your battles wisely and don’t make fools of your selves. PS. after flying El Al I can honestly say it’s a cheap airline.

  46. It’s really cool how Lucky reprimanded several people, but not the guy who calls Jews “thieving rats”

  47. Firstly, apologies. I dod not intend to offend you.
    However, you have written several posts (the woman who “saved the plane” comes straight mind) which does offend a certain minority. My point was on the original title of the article. “Because they’re cheap”. Very derogatory, and came across very badly.

    I am an atheist and do not care for religion at all, however certain tones can be misconstrued and should be written carefully. I am a long time reader of this blog and really like your posts, but sometimes they to seem to offend certain minorities, religions or ethnicities.

  48. it is not uncommon for airlines to be cheap, at the expense of safety — remember the Air France crash years ago? There were also accusations that they had made some decisions based on financial reasons.
    Maybe El Al is cheap, but not it’s not because they’re a jewish airline, but because they’re….. an airline! And I don’t remember Lucky ever posting anything critical about El Al before, so I think it’s a bit much how everybody is flipping out here.
    Oh and Jay’s comments are actually anti-semitic — that’s what anti-semitism looks like, just for comparison.

  49. One bloody article about Elal and the world is up in arms. Get a life people.

    Signed,
    A Jew with seichel

  50. @ Jake — C’mon now, you’re misquoting my title. You’re saying I put “because they’re cheap” in the title. I didn’t. I said “to save money,” which, if you’re going after connotations, has a different one. And that’s quoting the “aviation” expert in the Israeli article I linked to. So it’s their idea, and not mine.

    Virtually everything I write will offend someone, and I’m fine with that. I go out of my way to be careful with what I say. Sometimes I screw up, and in those cases I’ll be the first to say “I’m an idiot, and would have done it differently if I did it again.” But here I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I won’t apologize for some people being WAY overly sensitive.

  51. @ Ben L — I’m responding to people who I think are making sincere points where I think there’s a dialogue to be had. I’m not responding to people who are saying crazy things just to get a response (notice I also didn’t respond to the person who called me a nazi, but oddly you’re not calling me out on that).

  52. Sucks for the passengers, to be stuck in a metal tube for the length of time the flight should have taken and wind up back where they started.

    I can certainly understand scenarios why doing this could make sense. You don’t continue over the ocean without the engine, that seems prudent. And visa issues as @Sean M points out could be a much bigger problem for passengers.

    So basically this sucks and there were hard choices, all passengers were going to be inconvenienced and some more than others regardless of the choice.

    But to surmise that El Al is being cheap… there’s nothing anti-semitic about that. It may not be accurate here (though it could be). But there are certainly things El Al does that are pretty cheap, like devaluing their already not very generous frequent flyer program. And you don’t have to be Jewish like me in order to say so.

    Similarly it’s plenty possible for the goyim over at United to be cheap, like when they chose the dysfunctional shares reservation system over legacy United’s functional one.

    As my friend Eugene Volokh wrote yesterday on his Washington Post blog, “I’m happy to say that I’m just going to keep on microaggressing.”

    And Lucky — if this post constitutes micro-aggression — I hope you will too (even if I’m not as prepared to criticize the El Al choice in this instance as your post does).

    Cheers,
    Gary

  53. That is not what the URL says… el-al-plane-has-engine-failure-flies-another-five-hours-because-theyre-cheap/

    Bottom line, when it comes to religion be it Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christianity, or whatever people are overly sensitive and the smallest thing can set people off.

  54. Make a negative comment about muslims or islam or their prophet and it is free speech. Say anything negative related to the country of Israel and it is anti-semetic. The world hasn’t seen this double standard, I hope your readers are seeing it.

  55. How can any one call Ben a racist for commenting on an interesting decision made by a foreign airline. Does that mean he is anti british when he talks about heathrow and the concorde room of course not. It would help if everyone stopped being so stupid.

  56. @Lucky

    I apologize for missing that guy’s Nazi comment (and I don’t know how I did; it’s not buried in a long paragraph or anything), and I wish I had included him in my original comment as well as the “Jews are rats” guy. Obviously they’re both hateful and stupid comments.

    My comment was not intended to pick one side of this bizarro brushfire that’s happening in the comments, although I can see that it certainly comes off that way given that I only included a nutcase from one side. Rather I was trying to insinuate that (IMO) it’s poor housekeeping to not respond to these crazies with a firm invitation to please leave and never come back. It’s your blog and obviously it’s your prerogative to police the comments as much or as little as you see fit, though.

  57. Dear Ben,
    Thank you for the thoughtful response. I mistakenly did not appreciate that you were citing Haaretz’s article’s reference of the “experts.” I did not intend to assault you for your German citizenship — I apologize for even bringing that into the conversation. I may have over-reacted a bit, but at the same time, I’m glad that everyone has had a chance to voice their perspectives here. I hope that maybe this exchange will help us all work toward understanding each other better. Thank you again.
    zow

  58. “Sometimes I screw up, and in those cases I’ll be the first to say “I’m an idiot, and would have done it differently if I did it again.”

    FTR, Ben, this is why you’re one of the best bloggers on the Internet and certainly in the frequent flyer community.

  59. Me: Your comment made my day as well.

    The article ends with a prejudiced slur of El-Al being ‘cheap’. I take offense. Everyone safe and sound– all is well and it was a proper safety and business decision. I wonder if the author owned the airline what his take would be.

  60. @pavel: +1

    There are at least two bloggers on BA who delete critical comments. Unconscionable, in my book.

    Lucky rolls with it really well.

  61. Zow wrote: “Effectively calling El Al ‘penny pinching Jews’ is inappropriate and offensive.”

    Are you kidding me? Get over your entitlement mentality. The author’s original post made no such inference. Grow a pair.

  62. Clearly the right decision was made. Likely less than 1/2 way and best to stay overland. One engine out on a 747 is not an emergency.

    Years back when CO flew an old 747 to LGW (and a few other places) it was not uncommon for a engine to be turned off with oil problem. Was on a CO 747 and the pilot announce he was going to shut down an engine (but that it would still look like it was running – ie wind). We were just over the 1/2 point (EWR-LGW) so we continued to LGW. No need to stop in DUB or any other place.

    Aircraft travels slower so took about an extra 45 minutes or so to get to LGW. But not a safety issue with 4 engines and one out and we all arrived but 45 minutes late. Not a big deal. Now 2 engine aircraft would be another issue.

  63. @FEDUP:
    See my apology email above.
    Ben’s post made no inference — I made the inference. The post implied it. You do know the difference between imply and infer, don’t you?

  64. @Ben ” I’m a quarter Jewish ethnically (my dad’s mother is 100% Jewish), though I’m not religious.”
    If you are not religious, then you are not a “quarter” Jewish.
    Jewish = Believer in Judaism
    Hebrew = the ethnic group commonly associated with Jews

    Not all Jews are Hebrew, and not all Hebrews are Jewish.

  65. United did the same to us though we were more than half way LAX-OGG.
    The real issue for both airlines is to fix the engine/fly one to the landing destination.
    I think every passenger should sue El Al in Small Claims Court. This is outrageous.

  66. What I can’t understand is why the plane did not go to london. El Al fly from many uk airports and I can assure you there would be no issue with visas or facilities to cater for all the different cultures on board etc. they already have special security arrangements at lomdon airports for EL AL

  67. I don’t have any prejudice one way or the other regarding the jewishness of this post or the action of El Al. I don’t think it was unprecedented or short sited on the part of the airline. If i’m a passenger on this flight I would absolutely not want to continue the flight over the ocean. Deciding to return to Tel Aviv over land with 3 engines on 747 seems pretty smart to me. Flying over land if something goes wrong a diversion along the way is no problem. Landing back at origin allows the passengers to probably be redirected reletively quickly on other flights or new plane. If they landed in Ireland or Scotland I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to get things situated for a new plane or long delay to get replacement engine. It just makes sense to go back to Tel Aviv. Many passengers are probably local and return home and come back next day to try again. I’d hate to be stranded in god knows where even if it’s a nice hotel. You could be stuck for days. I think El Al did right by the passengers.

  68. You know who is cheap? Delta!!! 9 hour flight from ATL to HNL and served water and soda and little bags of peanuts and pretzels…

  69. Sorry folks. You aren’t entitled to infantilization. There’s no constitutional right to not be offended, and Ben can’t anticipate everyone’s threshold. Go look elsewhere if “trigger words” like “El Al” and “Jewish” and “Israel” get so mangled by your brain you can’t think clearly.
    If, on the other hand, you actually like democracy and free speech, move to Israel. I did.

  70. You people are nuts. As if Ben is in the least bit following a personal vendetta against Israel or jews here. Your responses show how much of a limited horizon you have and how much you are exploiting your religion for a protection shield.

    People with german citizenship are not allowed to criticize jews? Well, take this. I’m german and I say F*** you filthy animals who commented here, you are disgusting and probably we are all better off if you leave blogs like these.

  71. Damn. I’ve been reading this blog for years now and I’ve never seen the comments get so stupid, so fast – and so plentifully. I also never expected Godwin’s law to kick in so early! Good on you, Lucky, for taking it so well. I think I’d have closed the comments for fear the stupidity and butt-hurt was contagious.

  72. I personally believe the pilots and all involved actually made the right choice. Flying over water, as mentioned, would be incredibly risky because the pilots couldn’t truly assess the extent or cause of the failure. Had they landed in Europe, the airline would have to try to rebook passengers on airlines that have give others a priority, meaning not only a longer wait for the passengers and pilots, but also the price of hotels, replacement parts, delays because of the aircrafts location, etc. etc. In addition, they could have still made an emergency landing in Europe if further issues developed.

  73. If the flight had been diverted to London, Paris, or Frankfurt — would the passengers have had the options of more flights to NYC than from Tel Aviv five hours later? Let’s keep the discussion rational.

  74. ehen you critique a national airline ( China, India, US, Isreal) it seems we learn more about their national culture!

  75. WOW, the comments just keep on and on. At first it was quite funny in a crazy internet kind of way but then I lost consciousness just past half-way through reading the comments.

    I have been reading your blog for a long time now and believe that there was absolutely nothing in your post to illicit the majority of the posts – you would have written nothing different if it had been an American, Asian, Middle Eastern or European carrier.

    The reality for El Al is that it wouldn’t matter what they did, they would have been criticized and passengers (those on the plane or those having to wait for the return flight) would have been massively inconvenienced.

    Keep up the good work and don’t let the haters get to you!

  76. First of all it is very scary to hear we will be making an emergency landing. In an hour. It’s horrible to know that something is wrong with the plane. It’s even worse that an hour later you are told a different decision is made and we are going back. The only thing you want to do is get off the broken plane safe I was on the plane. Being safe is first and everyone wanted off. Second el al was rude and didn’t handling the rebooking process well and third they lost the luggage and don’t seem to care. They really did not worry about the. Passenger and if told emergency landing needed than do it. London is safe

  77. As an Israeli and a Jew, I am shocked at the comments here. There was nothing “anti-semitic” or “anti-israel” written here. Live and let live, there was no reason for this.

  78. As a non-American, the way the US government fawns over Israel now makes perfect sense…

    I always found it bizarre how close they were given the rest of the developed world is friendly while keeping a safe distance from legitimising an outlaw state (not terrorist state, that’s just hyperbole) but if this is how you act over this blatantly non antisemitic story…

  79. As a long time pilot myself (USAF and civilian) I do have a somewhat difficult time understanding the decision to continue flying for 5 hours with an engine failure. I am quite sure that the 747 was entirely capable of flying on 3 engines. In fact, as the weight decreased I suspect they could even fly on 2 but, with each lost engine the margins of performance degrades. I have practiced landing a B-52 with 4 engines shut down on one wing (B-52 has 8 engines) but the airplane was extremely light and it definitely would have been tricky to deal with an aborted landing attempt.

    The normal rule for an engine failure is to land at the closest airport with enough runway. El Al had a somewhat more complex decision to make because they have unique security issues, they have passengers with unique needs, and they were facing some serious logistical issues if they landed somewhere other than Tel Aviv or JFK. On the other hand, it would be likely that many nearby airports would have had the facilities to repair a 747. A real concern for me would have been that the same issue that caused the low oil pressure on one engine, could have existed on all of the engines that were being serviced by the same mechanics. What if every engine was low on oil, or had the wrong oil, or …. If those engines started failing over the Mediterranean and they had to ditch, there would have been hell to pay.

  80. What he did it was the right procedure and pretty much correct. He was not over the Atlantic Ocean, he did not reach the Point of No Return where he was forced to carry on until destination or alternate airport so what was the last option ? To divert to nearest landing field or to return to base and fix the airplane. If they can, this is the option they like to choose because they can replace the engine and the cost is reduced. Imagine to have to ship a new engine to your alternate airport together with a team of engineers, to have to take all the passengers relocate in an hotel and to charter a plane to move passengers to their final destination or to be forced to pay a penalty to those who do not want to carry on the flight. A huge lost! So when they are in the air and they have a 4 engine aircrafts if one engine is out, flight can be done properly, they can declare a pan pan and request to fly back to departure airport. It is a standard procedure they teach you even in a flight school…

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