El Al, Israel’s national airline, has made a not so wise judgment call that is going to lead to a lot of negative publicity. El Al is typically the airline of choice when the president, prime minister and other VIP fly for official business trips. However, when President Shimon Peres booked a flight with the airlines, it decided to charge him an additional $5,000 for the addition of an oxygen tank.
According to safety procedure, an oxygen tank and other emergency first aid equipment are mandatory whenever the president, prime minister or other politician travel abroad by air.
Upon hearing of El Al’s plans of charging for the extra carry-on, Peres cancelled the flight and booked a flight instead with Air Canada.
Anat Friedman, a spokeswoman for El Al, issued an apology to the president. Israeli officials have acknowledged the apology and said that the president wishes to put the matter behind him.
President Peres will be arriving to Canada as a witness when the memorandum of understanding between the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Royal Society of Canada is signed. He will also be meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Part of the trip will include a stop in Ottawa with Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a talk on security, peace and trade.
President Peres played a pivotal role in the negotiating of the Oslo Accords in 1992 and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 along with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
While most airlines are struggling financially, they need to really consider the consequences when tacking on additional fees. The bad publicity could prove to be far more costly in the long haul. Hopefully, for El Al, their blunder in judgment is something they can recover from.