The Israeli airline is often regarded as the most secure airline in the world, and rightly so. International Business News attributes the high security rankings to “its exceedingly thorough passenger interviews, use of armed air marshals on every flight and obsessive attention to screening (check-in times for El Al flights are much longer than for other carriers).”
The outcome of the security measures are irrefutable: The airline had only one hijacking, which occurred in 1968 and, according to IBN, “since its founding in 1948, no El Al passenger jet has ever crashed.”
Also irrefutable is that, as IBN aptly stated this sterling safety record does not extend to timeliness.”
In February, FlightStats released its annual On-time Performance Service Awards. In doing so, the data released in indicated that El Al had the worst on-time arrival rate at 65 percent. Comparatively, Gulf Air of Bahrain had the best on-time rate of 91 percent.
The global flight tracker has been aggregating and archiving flight information since 2005, and since 2009, it has released its service awards. The FlightStats website and the data collected for the OPS awards stated that the company “collects real-time flight status information on more than 82 percent of scheduled passenger fights flown by the top 200 airlines worldwide.”
In response to flightstats.com findings, El Al’s Israeli branch said that its on-time performance is constantly improving.
When asked by the Jewish Voice to detail how it is constantly improving its on-time performance, Sheryl Stein from the New York-based El Al office was unable to obtain the correct information from El Al’s Israeli office by press time and seemed surprised to learn of the dismal data. A detailed response is still pending.
The Israeli branch of El Al, however, had earlier told Ynetnews.com that “delays in Cyprus’ airspace, through which El Al flights pass, sometimes affect the on-time performance and arrival times,” the company said in a statement. El Al told Ynetnews.com said it turned to Eurocontrol, the European organization for the safety of air navigation, to help solve the problem.
If the data generated by Flightstats is indeed correct, it could spell more troubles for the airline, which has had a shaky few months. On December 1, El Al CEO Elyezer Shkedy announced his resignation.
Without citing any particular reason for the departure, Shkedy wrote a letter of resignation to El Al employees. “I am finishing my position with pride and a sense of great satisfaction,” he wrote, calling the position “one of the most challenging positions in the Israeli economy.”
For the four years since Shkedy headed the airline he left a trail of questionable decisions in his wake. Most notable was his failure to secure the $75 million investment through FIMI last October. The investment fell through because Shkedy failed to reach a labor agreement with the unions.
El Al quoted Shkedy as saying he regretted this failing to reach a new collective labor agreement with unions, as it is considered a key element in the company’s ability to compete. “El Al must reduce spending for the sake of a better future for its personnel and passengers if it wishes to continue to grow and compete in the field of aviation, which is variable and challenging,” Shkedy said in the statement.
Since Shkedy took the airline’s helm in 2010, it had registered a loss of $17.4 million and its share price has fallen 38 percent, according to recent reports, though the company swung back into profitability in the first three quarters of the year. El Al reported its third-quarter profits to have risen 54% from a year ago to $58 million, while revenues climbed 6% to $643 million and passenger loads increased 5%.
Still, the airline faces increased competition as the “Open Skies” agreement with the European Union goes into effect, which Shkedy had fought hard to prevent from occurring. Open Skies will loosen restrictions on the number of carriers and flights between Israel and EU destinations.
At the time of his resignation, the Jerusalem Post had speculated that losing the FIMI investment was likely a factor in his decision to step down as CEO.
“On some level there was internal criticism from the board that Shkedy didn’t do enough to get FIMI on board and try to push for an agreement with the union,” an airline industry source told The Jerusalem Post. “When you can’t bring in a big investor – and FIMI is one of the most serious investment houses tied to Israel – it doesn’t bode well.”
El Al’s chairman of the board, Amikam Cohen, dismissed any suggestions that there was internal pressure for Shkedy to step down.
“The board regretfully accepted Shkedy’s announcement on his decision to end his role and added that Shkedy’s special personality, management and contributions to the El Al company deserved special appreciation, and were expressed in every work area in a very complex and challenging company,” he said in a statement.