Unfortunately in most parts of the world there are limited government regulations when it comes to how airlines have to compensate passengers in the event of flight delays or cancelations. The EU is an exception, as they dictate the compensation that airlines owe passengers in the event of a flight delay (these rules are known as EU261). This can get costly pretty quickly, and the compensation is based on the distance you’re flying and how much you’re delayed.
For example, if your flight covers a distance of 3,500km and is delayed by four hours or more, you’re entitled to 600EUR cash compensation, which is a lot. Airlines are required to pay this if you ask, though they don’t have to pay this proactively. Rather you typically have to write the airline, and sometimes they make you jump through some hoops, but usually it works in the end.
As reported by Globes, EL AL Israel Airlines is outright ignoring EU261 regulations, and is refusing to pay passengers for flight delays, in direct contradiction of EU laws.
For a long time EL AL allegedly only followed EU laws for non-Israeli passengers, arguing that Israeli passengers were subjected to Israeli laws. In other words, if a flight was delayed by four or more hours, non-Israelis would be compensated, while Israelis wouldn’t be.
A year and a half ago a German court ruled that EL AL had to pay the proper compensation to Israeli passengers as well:
The change that Pais identifies stems from a case against El Al a year and a half ago, in which a German court ruled that it was liable to pay compensation to Israeli passengers for delays to flights that took off from Europe. The lawsuit was filed after El Al said that it would pay compensation under EU law only to EU passengers, thus discriminating against the Israeli passengers. At that time too El Al argued that relations with Israeli passengers were governed by Israeli law.
They apparently honored that court order for a while, but have now reversed course and gone to an even stricter policy. Now EL AL is apparently ignoring EU regulations altogether, and arguing that all passengers (both Israeli and non-Israeli) are subjected to Israeli laws:
In response letters to passenger demands that “Globes” has obtained, El Al’s changed approach is clear. So, for example, is response to an approach by Claim it over a delay to a flight by El Al subsidiary Sun d’Or from Ljubljana to Tel Aviv in June 2017, the company stated that it would pay compensation as required by EU law by means of a bank transfer.
This week, in response to a claim concerning a flight that took off from Rome on April 8, the company’s approach was somewhat different. It claimed that since the delay was less than eight hours, it was not liable to pay compensation, since it operated under Israeli law.
“The court ruling led to a change at El Al, which started to abide by EU law. In the past two weeks, however, the company has made a 180 degree turn and has decided to claim that EU law does not apply to it. This time round, El Al is not just discriminating against Israeli passengers, but depriving foreign passengers, who it claims are not entitled to compensation.”
This isn’t a gray area, or anything, but rather EL AL is very clearly violating EU laws with this. Presumably the airline isn’t about to stop flying to the EU, so I’m not sure how they think they’ll get away with this. My guess is that they’re just avoiding paying for now and hope people will give up and go away, and then they’ll comply again once they’re forced to by the courts.
I’ll be curious to see how this plays out, since I’m sure there will be plenty of court cases shortly regarding EL AL’s new “policy.”