El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin spoke on Tuesday with a senior rabbinic figure regarding last Friday’s “flight from hell” and stated explicitly: “I never said that Haredim attacked or rioted on the flight, there was no physical violence,” Israel Hayom reported. Usishkin encouraged the rabbi to pass on his statement.
An investigation committee set up by the carrier following last Friday’s events has yet to completed its work (See: El Al to Launch Investigation Into ‘Horror Flight LY 002’).
Dozens of observant Jewish passengers pleaded to be allowed to leave a delayed early Friday morning El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv when it became certain the plane would not reach Israel in time to avoid the desecration of Shabbat. But, according to reports, the pilot said he would take the plane back to the gate, and instead turned it around and took to the sky.
Secular media reported that the observant passengers attacked flight attendants and threatened to break into the cockpit. Observant Jewish passengers, as well as several journalists, said the report was a lie.
CEO Usishkin stated, “As far as I’m concerned, if there had been instances of violence, it would have been worse than desecrating Shabbat.” He explained that had violence taken place as described in the media, the protocol would have required the immediate removal of the violent passenger from the flight, or handcuffing them. But this did not happen – neither in New York, nor in Athens, nor in Israel.
The airliner’s CEO also said he was not aware of any unusual events in the cockpit area. He explained that the pilot believed he could land in Ben-Gurion International before the 4:40 PM sunset on Friday, in which case the religious passengers would have spent Shabbat in the terminal.