El Al Strike Strands More Than 1,000 Passengers

Choos reigned at Ben Gurion Airport today when El Al personnel jumped the gun on a sympathy strike called by the Histadrut among airport workers and prevented the departure of over 1,000 passengers before the strike officially began at 8 a.m. local time.

All the other airlines serving Israel had either cancelled or advanced their flights today, to ensure that their planes and passengers would be clear of Israel by the morning.

El Al, which has not been flying its own planes for the past month but chartering others to handle passengers holding El Al tickets, had arranged for nearly a dozen planes to leave in the early morning hours. But the El Al workers committee called special “informational and educational” meetings of the ground crews and flight attendants, beginning at 4 a.m. Passengers could not approach the ticket counters.

After some hours, the airline management bussed the angry passengers back to hotels in Tel Aviv to wait until the airport strike ends tomorrow morning.

In addition to the airport, the Histadrut called for sympathy strikes at the country’s seaports, the government owned Electric Corp. the Mekrot water supply company, the Dead Sea potash works and the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem municipalities. The electric and water companies were closed to the public but power and water supplies were not affected.

Many of the strikers interviewed by Israel Radio said they stopped work at Histadrut orders because they were opposed to the manner in which the government handled the El Al dispute. But most had little sympathy with the El Al workers who are among the highest paid in the country. They were blamed for disrupting normal airline operations and bringing the company to the brink of foreclosure.

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