How much does an Israir flight to Eilat cost? Depends on your accent.
Following customer complaints, a Ynet investigation has revealed gaps of dozens of shekels between prices for Israeli travelers and foreign citizens.
A man named Chaim Meir told Ynet, "Sunday (October 30) I called Israir for a price to fly from Tel Aviv to Eilat for myself and my girlfriend, who is visiting Israel from England. The girl on the phone told me there was a flight the next day, marked down from NIS 370 (USD 79) to NIS 256 (USD 55).
"But when my girlfriend called to make a reservation (in English, of course), they told her the flight was NIS 370, and they said there were no special fares on offer.
"She thought I'd made a mistake – after all, how could it be that several minutes after they told me the flight was on special, they told her it wasn't?
"I promised her there was a special fare, and gave her the details again."
But Debby's second call to Israir confirmed what she had originally been told: no discounted fares available.
Meir says he called back to make reservations, only to find that, "When you speak Hebrew – wonder of wonders! – the picture is entirely different, and the flight was once again discounted."
Liat Epstein, director of the Israir public relations department, apologized for the company's mistake, and said there is no discrepancy in airline charges for Israeli citizens and tourists.
"The price list for domestic flights is uniform, whether for Israeli travelers or tourists," she said.
Ynet investigation: NIS 130, instead of 363
But can the mistake really be chalked up to 'human error'? Apparently not. Meir was unsatisfied with Israir's response, and said it was "unlikely" that four different customer service operators made the same "human error." So Ynet conducted its own investigation.
Two Ynet employees, one a native English speaker, called Israir requesting information about flights from Eilat to Tel Aviv this Saturday night (November 5).
Whilst the Israeli caller was told by a receptionist named Anastasia there were seats available for NIS 130, another woman called Sarah asked the other caller if he was a tourist. Upon answering "yes", he was told a ticket on the same flight would cost USD 79 (NIS 366).
Is a business permitted to charge different prices to different customers? According to consumer affairs attorney Yael Unger, the practice is absolutely illegal.
"Price discrimination for goods, services or entry to places of entertainment and public places is forbidden by law," she says.
Unger also added, "A company that employs discriminatory practices, as appears to have been done in this instance, has broken the law and can expect to face civil charges.
"In such cases, a plaintiff would not be required to prove damage in order to receive up to NIS 50,000 (USD 10,700)."