Passengers on an Arkia flight to Eilat were outraged Thursday when they were to land in Ovda, some 50 km from Israel's southernmost city, after the plane they were meant to board was used to take Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Poland.
Arkia apologized for the inconvenience, and explained that the Polish plane it had leased to fly the passengers was too large to land in Eilat's airport.
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It appears that before leasing the plane, Arkia was given permission by the Civil Aviation Authority to land the aircraft in Eilat, but this approval was later revoked, and Arkia was instructed to land in Ovda instead.
Netanyahu on Arkia flight to Poland (Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO)
"When we found out we're flying to Ovda we informed all the passengers," Arkia CEO Gadi Teper told Ynet.
Arkia and El Al have been bidding for the right to operate the prime minister's flights for years. This time Arkia drew the upper hand and flew Netanyahu to Poland having presented the lower of the two offers.
But Arkia's passengers cared little for the airline's prestige. "We're not supposed to solve the PM's aviation problems. We reached Ben Gurion International Airport and they told us we're flying to Ovda," Sharon Avrahami, a passenger, complained.
"This is no way to start a vacation. We didn't book this flight to take a bus to Eilat, not from Ovda or from anywhere else," he added.
Another passenger said he was only told of the switch at the last moment. "They told us the plane couldn't land in Eilat. Didn't they know that earlier? Now we realize it's because the plane was taken for the PM's flight. Why must we pay the price?" he said.
"We paid money for a product and we simply didn't get it. It's an outrage."
Shahar Chai contributed to this report
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