“Last call to all passengers of EL AL flight 103 to Toronto”.
The story begins a few weeks earlier.
EL AL customer service called me up after I sent a semi-nasty letter about their lack of service. With scripted professionalism “R” called me to express regret for the slight inconvenience EL AL had bestowed me and to offer kind thoughts. “R” asked me when is my next flight and said that she would ensure that I would be “pampered” on that flight. Being a true Israeli and a frequent flyer I saw the opportunity for an upgrade to business class, but not a sleazy squeeze the airline upgrade, but a fair deal of millage points from my side and slim compensation from EL AL.
EL AL said no-go to business class, but did say they would upgrade me from seat 53 to 23 in economy class. Ahhh? OK…where is the upgrade? I am confused? Both seats are in economy class so what makes seat 23 better than 53? With resound disappointment “R” insisted that I was getting a better deal. Again, I expressed my confusion and wondered why is seat 23 is better? Will I have an advantage when we fall from the sky? Is it closer to the toilet? And what about the “pampered” part, it sounded mysteriously provocative. Would I be getting a special high-in-the-sky treat?
With great anticipation and curiosity I awaited for my flight 103 EL AL experience. To my amazement, upon boarding on flight 103, seat no. 23 was mysteriously unavailable. Not officially taken but unofficially in use by a nice young lady who indicated that the Orthodox gentlemen adjacent refuses to sit next to her because she is a woman. Although I am a devote pluralist, I was mad as hell that my “upgrade” seat was taken away from me by Haradi with a mission…my “upgrade seat”! The courteous EL AL crew solved the problem without delay providing the Haradi guy with a real upgrade to a single window seat. And I was left waiting for my surprises.
EL AL flights to North America are kind of a microcosm of Israel; the few but powerful wealthy individuals in business class, a few, but very visible group of Haradim, North American youth who are on birth right (or some kind of right)mission , perhaps a few high-techies with a week in the US, couples who are going to NY or Vegas as a way to spice up their life and like me…the lackeys.
The flight itself is a mix of Israeli efficiency, bureaucracy, and magic. The Israeli efficiency part is reflected in flight schedule: depart, eat, turn-off lights, eat again and arrive. The crews being courteous, mysteriously disappear after the departure meal, which consisted of a sandwich and a bottle of water (OK who wants to eat at 3:00 am…I do). Where is Itay Segev and his master chef declaration of upcoming gourmet food on EL AL flights? The in-flight entertainment includes a mix of banal movies with half hour spots of Israeli game shows. Do you know what is worse than game shows? Israeli versions of American game shows. And with so many excellent Israeli films available these days why doesn’t EL AL provide us with a little taste of real Israeli …”Lebanon”, “Waltz with Bashir”,” The Band’s visit” , etc. Why do we get stuck with mindless movies? I know why… so we can drowse to sleep faster?
With faultless Israeli air-force precision we land perfectly at Person International airport in Toronto (YYZ plays on my iPod). And just like modern day Israel has lost some of its historical charm, EL AL flights too have lost their charm with fewer and fewer people clapping as we land. EL AL flight 103 has come to its destination and I am on to greater Toronto…the place I once lived and loved.
And those EL AL promises that I would be pampered…well…they too like modern day Israel did not completely materialize.