Photo Credit: Tsahi Ben-Ami / Flash 90
El Al Airlines, the national airline of Israel

Israel’s national carrier, El Al Airlines has begun the process of starting to make refunds to passengers whose flights were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but as can be expected, it is an overwhelming, massive task.

After learning the airline was beginning to refund the money lost on the canceled flights, huge numbers of customers swamped the company’s phone lines with calls to customer service and predictably, got nowhere fast.

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According to a report by the Hebrew-language Ynet newspaper, a phone call to the company will not help; neither will an attempt to make contact through the company’s website.

The refund is being made solely by contact initiated by the company directly to customers via email who ordered their tickets directly from El Al, or through the agent from whom they ordered their flight.

In the letter from El Al, the customer receives a link to a form in which he provides information necessary for the company to issue the refund.

It is also important to note that not all eligible customers will receive their refund at the same time; the first refunds are being made to those whose flights were scheduled to take place place in February-March 2020, and then to those whose flights came later. (Refunds are being made to those who purchased tickets for flights between Feb. 1, 2020 and Oct. 24, 2020.)

Here’s the silver lining: El Al is offering a refund of the value of the ticket plus 30 gift points for frequent flyers, or a voucher at a 25 percent higher value for a future flight, valid until the end of 2021.

El Al owes about NIS 400 million to Israeli passengers at this point, and according to the “Tibi Law” which applies solely to Israelis, the airline must return the refunds by October 1.

El Al Israel Airlines will reopen passenger routes to four international destinations in October, with scheduled service to begin October 1 with a 9X-weekly service to Athens (ATH) on board Boeing 737-900 aircraft. Subsidiary Sun D’or will also offer charter flights to several destinations in Greece and Croatia through select local tour operators, according to Routes Online.

Starting October 12, the airline’s Dreamliner fleet also returns to the tarmac for three more routes: London Heathrow (LHR), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) are scheduled on board three-class 787-9s.

Earlier this week, the carrier also restarted cargo services to Hong Kong (HKG), Mumbai (BOM) and Shanghai (PVG), as well as operating charter flights “as needed.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.