In a story the details of which are just beginning to dribble out, Israeli airline El Al and the credit card company Heritage Affinity Services (HAS Visa) are no longer in a cooperative agreement.
HAS allows owners to designate Israel-related charities as beneficiaries of their purchases. It also provides – or at least provided – the opportunity to collect “points” towards the purchase of many goods, including El Al airlines tickets. As such, it is a highly valued card in the American Jewish community.
The severance occurred without any advance notice. Customers in El Al’s frequent flyer group, “Matmid” received an email notice on Thursday morning, April 24, with the peremptory note that: “The point conversion program with HAS credit cards has ended.”
One HAS client, Helene from New York, who was collecting HAS points specifically for a flight to Israel told JewishPress.com that she was shocked by the email, and feels that El Al just robbed her.
HAS points which have already been converted to use for El Al tickets will be honored, but no other HAS points – including those already collected but not yet converted – can be used towards El Al ticket purchases.
El Al customer service representatives told frustrated customers that the divorce was a “mutual decision,” while the HAS service representatives were not even initially aware of the severance. According to HAS, after consultation with management, the decision was made by El Al.
Many American Jews use the HAS card especially in order to collect “points” which can be used towards El Al airline tickets. At least one card holder explained to The Jewish Press that the El Al arrangement was a major reason why many people became HAS cardholders.
Some customers have already been told that collected points will not be redeemed by the airline, although they will continue to be eligible for the many other discounts and services offered by HAS.
One Israeli, much of whose family lives in the States, wants El Al to, at the very least, provide a grace period for customers who have been collecting points in good faith.
“I think El Al has an obligation to honor the points for the next few weeks, so those of us who have collected enough for a ticket, can convert them now. This is very unfair and unethical.”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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