The El Al Blunder

Should you give that ticket back?

Click here if you are unable to view this video.

Comments (38)

(33) Sanford ("Sandy") Goodman, September 21, 2012 5:15 AM

It should be returned because it was not intended

Even if it's halachically permitted to accept such a ticket it would be morally wrong to accept an unintended gift. Sandy Goodman Dallas Texas

(32) R. Baruch, September 16, 2012 2:41 AM

El Al's Gift

I remember that day well - Facebook was a frenzy of posts about what people were saying is clearly a 'mistake' but with the urgency of 'get it fast' as one post said "before they figure it out". El Al gave me a gift that day. El Al's gift to me was the opportunity to see the whole incident for what it was - an opportunity to choose to do the right thing and to say "no, I'm not even going to try". And trust me, I want that ticket! The whole thing happened so fast - and it would have been so easy - so saying no had to be even faster. Thank you El Al. Shana Tova.

(31) Hal Safran, September 13, 2012 11:39 AM

difference to charity

It is an interesting thought. Perhaps another alternative is to give the difference to charity either in your own name or in the name of El Al.

(30) Ya'akov Ariel ben Ezra, September 12, 2012 11:09 PM

Flight Security

I fully agree with Rabbi Salomon if it isn't for just this one reason - when we fly El Al we are sure that the company has flight marshals in place for our safety and they would be an expensive investment to maintain. I feel more secure with El Al than the others.

(29) Sara, September 12, 2012 9:29 PM


I certainly agree with you. People find justification for most anything that benefits them. Ever return the money when a cashier makes a mistake in your favor? Ever let a cashier know when they didn't charge you for an item? Fact is that someone has to pay for those mistakes and sometimes it is with the loss of their job.

(28) Carolyn, September 12, 2012 4:34 PM

Two wrongs dont make a right

I agree with Rob, it is a payment made by mistake. I have been wanting to go to Israel for years but would not want to go under such circumstances. You can call me a freiyer but I prefer to have the sweet deals I am given from doing what is right. We are in the process of taking a personal accounting of ourselves. Two wrongs dont make a right, either corporate or consumer. El Al has done the right thing to honor the tickets, now the ticket holders should have an opportunity to compensate the corporation, perhaps through charitable donations. It would be hypocritical to fly to the Holy Land by cheating the people who would be bringing you there. I will wait and save my money until I can afford to go the proper way. How can we equate cheating, stealing, taking advantage of others all in the name of getting a good deal as right? When I finally make it to the western wall to pray, I want my prayers to have meaning, and to know I am an honest person. I am converting based on these principals and what being a Jew is supposed to mean. This is a very clear, old, basic concept, and easy to understand. I am I missing something?

(27) MOSHE, September 12, 2012 3:47 PM

without this trip, I would not have gone to Israel.

Sometimes, things happen that are not of your control. In this case, this situation presented an opportunity for my wife and myself to go to Israel, while it was not even planned. Therefore, though the price had reduced the income to the government of Israel, who hold a significant percentage of El Al stock, the additinal income that is generated by my expenditures during my stay to the country's economy (X10 according to retail sales recycling) I feel that the savings from the lower price will be more beneficial at the end. IF I returned the tickets, it will not make a drop of difference in the GDP. However, with my total expeditures, that previously would have been zero, will make a blip on the GDP total. As such, I feel it was beshert that this event happened.

(26) Anonymous, September 12, 2012 11:00 AM

Yes, but...

In America these days, the expression has nothing to do with deals and deeds. Americans nowadays think that, "No good deed goes unpunished." Yes, there is "something to think about here, but thoughts go both ways. Perhaps the "ultimate" deed here would be to sit down with an El Al representative and decide together to "split the difference," or make some other agreement. Or, perhaps all the Rav's religious friends should ask a local, neighborhood rabbi to decide. Someone with "Da'as Tora. Then, they can let HIM think about it, and their only "Trial" in this becomes, "Do I have the Moral strength to listen blindly to the Rabbi's decision.

(25) Rob, September 12, 2012 9:37 AM

Payment under mistake of fact

I cannot but wholeheartedly agree with Rabbi Salomon. There is a basic tenant of civil law and morality in that a payment under a mistake is not valid. The fact that El Al made a mistake should not be the reason to take advantage of them. If you went to a shop and the shopkeeper gave you the wrong change, amounting to hundred's of dollars, would you not give the money back to them? In the end El Al needs to make reasonable profits if we want them to be around to fly to and fro in the years to come. The short term gain of an ill-gotten metziah could just give all of us long term pain.

(24) benyamin ezra tzeon, September 12, 2012 8:25 AM



Reuven Frank, September 12, 2012 11:08 AM

"The Other side..."

The problem in this outlook is that the Management instead of acknowledging straightforwardly the righteousness of "the Jew who who was thoughtful enough to return the money.." Is just as likely to think, "Look at this religious "Freiyer" (dumb sap), who gave the money back." Ultimately, IMHO, the truth of the Tora's standpoint can only be discerned by asking a Tora sage for his halachic decision.

(23) Anonymous, September 12, 2012 2:11 AM

Sorry, don't agree with you. El Al is a business and anyone who had the opportunity to get a bargain should.

El Al is a business and will make up for the mistake in other ways. They should definitely honor the tickets and give the best service they can. They don't have to include meals or free drinks on their flight and seats will be coach.

(22) John, September 11, 2012 10:29 PM

Non Jewish Thought

After this article, does anyone need to ask why Wal-Mart grew so big? They didn't grow big on the generosity of the Corporate Owners or Management. Ghey grew this big by the mindses of a person that will drive around the block 5 times to find a parking meter because the local parking garge is a bit more money. They grew this big because people would drive across the city, spending $40.00 dollars in gas to save $2.50 on a "t" shirt. The money spent in the big box store does what for the community? All in the name of saving a couple dollars.

(21) josh, September 11, 2012 9:09 PM

elal wins in the end

perhaps it was less than saintly for people to try and cash in on the mistake at the outset, and i wholeheartedly agree that a good deed is immeasurably more valuable than a good deal - but what would most benefit elal at this point? the author of this article gives some insight into elal's talent to make lemonade out of lemons - - whereas if people just dont use the tickets, or request a cancelation on the sale, elal gets nothing. as for me, an american who made aliyah, i will try to focus on my heart being warmed by the excitement thousands of our brothers and sisters displayed at the chance to visit the holy land. as mentioned in the above article, this deal still cost a few hundred dollars, yet garnered far more attention than another airline's recent mistake allowing free flights from NY to hong kong. ksiva vachasima tova, hope to see you and all our nation flying to israel on eagle's wings very soon.

(20) Michael Mendershausen, September 11, 2012 8:53 PM

About the El Al flight ticket

Rabbi Salomon, you did not go far enough. You should have quoted Leviticus 19:35 “You shall not commit a perversion in justice, in measures of length, weight, or volume.” If that applies to the seller, it should also apply to the buyer. Taking advantage of a seller’s mistake is perverting justice, too. A buyer would certainly complain if a seller took advantage of a buyer’s mistake. And, also, Leviticus 25:14 “When you make a sale to your fellow or make a purchase from the hand of our fellow, do not aggrieve each other.” That certainly reinforces 19:35. The bottom line, though, is one’s conscience should reinforce both. “You shall love your God” means you should make the Divine Name beloved. Act as if God is beside you at all times watching your every move. Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach once bought a donkey and found a gem in the carrying case which came with it. The rabbis congratulated him on the windfall with which he had been blessed. “No,” said Rabbi Shimon, “I bought a donkey, but I didn’t buy a diamond.” He proceeded to return the diamond to the donkey’s owner, an Arab, who remarked, “Blessed be the God of Shimon ben Shatach.” Those who accepted the mistake by El Al got a gem with their ticket and kept it.

(19) Beth, September 11, 2012 6:37 PM

The airlines have lost respect for customers

The airlines have lost their sense of decency. They now charge twice for the same seat – once for the ticket, and then nickel and dime us for “premium seats” (which are now almost all seats), preboarding (even with babies), and exorbitant change fees (which cost them nothing when it’s done via computer). So I feel no problem taking advantage of their mistake. When they start treating customers like people again, I will be happy to return the respect I used to have for them.

(18) Moshe Haven, September 11, 2012 5:39 PM

Simply the right thing to not do

It's difficult to imagine someone feeling right about using such a ticket. I certainly might buy such a ticket in the excitement of seeing the listed price. But I'd like to think that I'd return it after a bit more thought upon becoming aware that it was a mistake. ElAl is acting like a mentch in honoring the purchases. The argument that a corporation isn't a person and somehow therefore doesn't count has nothing to do with the reality that we are each making choices. Our choices define and create us.

(17) Bro, September 11, 2012 5:08 PM

Who said ELAL is a Jewish company?

It is a public company with many shareholders. I am sure there are mutual funds & other investment vehicles as well as non-jews who have shares in this company. Even if some of the points mentioned in Rabbi Salomon's video are valid, they may not apply to non-jews.

Anonymous, September 11, 2012 9:18 PM

Who said ELAL is a Jewish company?

Rabbi Salomon's points apply to everyone who has the Torah in their Bible, so that includes Christians, too. Leviticus 19:35 “You shall not commit a perversion in justice, in measures of length, weight, or volume.” If that applies to the seller, it should also apply to the buyer. Taking an advantage of a seller’s mistake is perverting justice, too. A buyer would certainly complain if a seller took advantage of a buyer’s mistake. And, also, Leviticus 25:14 “When you make a sale to your fellow or make a purchase from the hand of our fellow, do not aggrieve each other.” That certainly reinforces 19:35. The bottom line, though, is one’s conscience should reinforce both. “You shall love your God” means you should make the Divine Name beloved. Act as if God is beside you watching your every move. Rabbi Shimon ben Shatach once bought a donkey and found a gem in the carrying case which came with it. The rabbis congratulated him on the windfall with which he had been blessed. “No,” said Rabbi Shimon, “I bought a donkey, but I didn’t buy a diamond.” He proceeded to return the diamond to the donkey’s owner, an Arab, who remarked, “Blessed be the God of Shimon ben Shatach.”

(16) Shimeon Weiner, September 11, 2012 4:36 PM

Agree with Rabbi Salomon

I had the prices up on the screen and opted not to buy - I just would not have felt right with it - and - I have never been to Israel - and have two children there - but I would not have enjoyed the trip at ElAl's expense - All the Best, SW

(15) Yos ten Berge, September 11, 2012 4:27 PM

If you must travel this way, I'd rather not, ok, I do like a particle but only when both parties are aware of. And if you and many others in this manner, buy a ticket and EL AL should therefore fire someone, how do you have for your particle?

(14) Anonymous, September 11, 2012 4:15 PM

My father Z"L always would check the bill from a restaurant and correct it if necessary in either direction. If we owed the restaurant more money than was written, he would inform the waiter/waitress and pay it all. Shana Tova

(13) Edgardo, September 11, 2012 3:55 PM

About the El Al flight ticket

forgive me, english is not my first languaje, I am sepharady. I agree with Rabi Salomon about not to take advantage of the airline mistake, but I also dont call this a mistake because hashem guide everything in the world, there is no coincidence in what happened with this situation at all, Hashem permitted the mistake of the airline for the benefits of those who have not go to Israel yet. Nothing happen without Hashem permit. So, yes, the airline commited the mistake, yes Hshem permitted the mistake, yes the people have the right to go to Israel with the underprice ticket, yes Hashem permitted. the people who bought this ticket will be in Israel and Hashem will let them enjoy the opportunity for good, because everything happen for good. In the other hand, is a mitzva go up to Israel and pay whatever cost from your pocket, no matter how expensive could it be. Either way, Hashem will see their pure intentions to step on the land of our forefathers. I didnt get the ticket, I paid last year the regular fare.

Anonymous, September 11, 2012 7:43 PM

free will

you can also go and kill someone, or steal from someone, and if you got to do it that doesn't mean that that's what He wants you to do... there are tests in life, El-Al passed their test, is everyone else going to pass theirs??? yes, going to Israel is a mitzvah, but if you highjack a plane to go there, it stops being one.... shana tova to all!!!

Anonymous, September 11, 2012 9:22 PM

About the El Al flight ticket

Your interpretation does not allow for free will; therefore, no criminal should be punished because their crimes were the will of God. In this particular case, God was testing those people who, after learning El Al had made a mistake, used the tickets without paying the true fare. They failed the test.

(12) Carol (chava), September 11, 2012 5:28 AM

people should not do this. but on the airline.

(11) Anonymous, September 10, 2012 8:54 PM

Business Halacha Institute pt. 2

Similarly, had El Al decided to honor the sale for charitable or public-relations motives, the whole matter would be a non-issue. However, the airline industry is tightly regulated in all areas of operation, including sales. It is for this reason that El Al didn't have much of an option and did not revoke the sales. This raises the question from a halachic perspective. If the validation of the sale is forced upon the airline by the authorities, the above arguments do not apply and the sale would seem to be halachically void. However, the sale is in fact halachically valid. The airline has agreed to operate all areas of its business in accordance with the regulations set by the authorities, including the conditions regulating sales and sale prices. As such, the sale is halachically valid. Even if the sale is valid, was it incorrect to purchase a ticket that forced the airline to honor the sale? In reality, as explained earlier, the issue in question is not about a forced regulation but the result of a voluntary acceptance to do business in accordance with those regulations. As such, there was no halachic prohibition against taking advantage of this glitch and purchasing tickets for a cheaper price.

(10) Elyakum, September 10, 2012 8:54 PM

Business Halacha Institute

I just want to include the text of the ruling of the Business Halacha Institute. R. Solomon is talking hashkafa. Is It Permitted to Use A Mispriced El Al Ticket? by HaRav Chaim Kohn Dean Business Halacha Institute Q: The recent technical glitch in El Al's network that resulted in thousands of tickets being sold for the unheard-of bargain price of $338 has resulted in passengers dealing with different emotions. Obviously, many people were thrilled by their stroke of good fortune, and look forward to enjoying the "luxury" of a trip to Israel at a cost that usually covers taxes and surcharges. Others, however, felt guilty, and called their Rav to ask the important question: Halachically, does one have the right to fly with this ticket, when it obviously represents a mistake beyond the control of the company that was exacerbated by today's hi-tech instantaneous sharing with family and friends in a close-knit community that is always anxious to go to Israel? The momentary pleasure of saving such a bundle of money is overshadowed by the concern that these gains may not be "kosher." El Al officials took some time before they made the decision to honor the tickets. A: Had such a glitch occurred in any unregulated industry, it would be a classic case of Onaa'h and Mekach Ta'us. Besides for the fact that the quoted price does not reflect the correct market value of the merchandise, it is also clear that the seller never intended to sell for this price and the merchant could render the sale null and void. On the other hand, if the merchant wishes to honor the sale, he may obviously do so. As such, in the case of a sale where the merchant will find out his error before the execution of the sale and the buyer took advantage of the mistake hoping that the merchant would honor the sale - although he is not obligated to - he may halachically do so, since his action has no legal bearing on the merchant. To be continued...

(9) Anonymous, September 10, 2012 2:44 PM

my goodness! I don't believe this!

Writer No. 5 says that a shaila (question) was posed to a rabbi and he said it was 100% mutar? (permitted). what was the name of this Rabbi? was he an orthodox rabbi? You tell me a known Rav- posek, who said that this is permitted, and I will shut my mouth and accept. (which is what we are supposed to do) Rabbi Salomon said some people had commented, "Oh well, El Al is a big company, the money lost is no big deal". IS THIS THE WAY A JEW IS SUPPOSED TO THINK???? How dare you use this as an excuse to take away parnassah from a Jewish company? (to make them lose money) You don't know their expenses, you don't know what a loss this company will have for a flight of 400 people paying a quarter of what they are supposed to pay will cause them. Another man said he has many children and would otherwise never be able to take the whole family to Israel. WHAT????? When did this become an excuse for GANEIVA???? (ROBBERY) Rabbi Salomon, please ask this shaila and give us the correct answer once and for all Thank you.

(8) Sidney, September 10, 2012 3:02 AM

Well Said

Judaism teaches "Lifnim Mishurat(h) HaDin" namely sometimes is praiseworthy to be stricter than the straight Halacha. Had I been a travel agent I would have alerted ElAl immediately (although not required by the letter of either the Jewish or Secular law) because it falls under "Lifnim Mishurat(h) HaDin".

(7) Miriam, September 10, 2012 1:11 AM

i agree, but im keeping my tickets :)

wow. this thought never ever crossed my mind, thank you Rabbi. firstly, i may b wrong with this, but i do believe it was not el als fault but a third party who forgot to add taxes to the tickets. Also, in response to the other responders- the only websites that said hot deal were the deal websites. also, 400 bucks to israel??? really, it had to be a glitch. there is no way in this world that that is possible. now, my story is that i saw the deal on a deal site and bought for my family, something we could have never afforded without the reduced rate. and yes, i am still keeping my tickets. and according to halacha i may not even be obligated to return them. but i think Rabbi Solomon is talking about a sensitivity. in todays world, we are so involved in "my rights as a consumer" and "i have the right to...." maybe we have to stop and think, "my obligations as a consumer are to be courteous to those i buy from, honest and fair and to understand that they are people too with families just like mine." el al looked at their obligation to us, and we have to look at our obligation to them.

richard, September 11, 2012 5:04 PM

Whatever you do, don't be a "chazir"

All I say is, if you are going to accept El Al's offer, don't just grab from them now when it suits you. Make sure you commit yourself to stay with them in future even if they are a little bit costlier than the others. They need customer loyalty which they are bravely trying to encourage, however embarrasing it must be for whoever pressed the wrong buttons on their computer. Enjoy your flights but be a "Mensh"....always.

(6) Tzvi Nightingale, September 10, 2012 1:09 AM

Kol HaKovod to R. Solomon

I applaud you for the courage to speak up about this. I too felt it was a bit of a moral quandary to clearly take advantage of the error despite all the rationalizations. We have the mitzvah of Kedoshim Tehiyu, to be holy and to go above and beyond what may be legally and even halachically permitted. It sends a sad message to jump on another's mistake at the first opportunity. Thanks for presenting this perspective. Our world needs more goodness in it and your perspective certainly is of that order. Yasher Koach to you.

(5) Anonymous, September 9, 2012 8:04 PM

who do you think you are?

With all due respect..... You are an amazing speaker, however, 1- the Rabbanim who know Halacha already said that its 100% mutar to go. 2- Did you ever get a coupon plus a sale plus a rebate and walk away paying close to nothing for an item? 3- what do you have with this deal? is it only beacause it is a zionistic company that you are protecting them? 4- and why are you so worried all of a sudden about ElAl? what about every other organization? 5- i dont either have a ticket. 6- what about you being happy for someone else who is now able to finally go to Eretz Yisroel (not Israel....).... that surely is a it not?

(4) Marsha, September 9, 2012 8:03 PM

I hear what you have to say, but I do not know if I agree. Similar to the El Al mistake, if I am in a store where the price marked is wrong, the store will often honor the posted price. Likewise, El Al did not have to honor the mistaken ticket cost. Those that have the tickets should be appreciative. Additionally, there is only a very minute possibility that it would even make a kiddush Hashem if one would return the ticket.

(3) Bro, September 9, 2012 6:00 PM

Many uncontemplated variables

This offer was not presented by anyone as a mistake. 1- Look at the flyer website email history of the incident. They all said hot deal. 2-Corporations do not have the same halachic status as individuals 3-How do we know whether or not ELAL's "mistake"wais covered by insurance? Maybe Expedia or some other outside contractor is covered by insurance. 4- ELAL is a public company with $1 billion in annual revenue. What is their marketing budget? Isn't it possible that the publicity was worth the unrealized revenue. what about loyal United customers that have decided to give Elal a chance. May they will become Elal regulars 6-the 4th quarter load factor is usually lower than the rest of the year. Maybe that load factor was increased to the point that it mitigated a large portion if not all the revenue losses. The issue is complex. The only people that know the bottom line of this glitch are insiders at ELAL. Signed no guilt

(2) Anonymous, September 9, 2012 2:26 PM

no case for (our) conscience

Hm, I don't see a case for conscience here. If there is any, it concerns the conscience of El Al and we can say they acted conscientiously when they took responsibility for their mistake and faced the consequences. Raising false hope - even if it is 'only' by mistake - and then disappointing their customers wouldn't have been honest. Just as I don't expect the sympathy (on a theoretical level) of an airline when I accidentally book my flight for the wrong date, I don't blame them for their incredibly high date-changing fees - although it's causing me a minor bankruptcy -, and I wouldn't ever think that they are taking advantage of that only one wrong click of mine.

(1) Anonymous, September 9, 2012 2:19 PM

What's a deal these days?

You bring up valid points Rabbi, as usual. These days, especially in the airline industry, what would be a "too good to be true deal"? Most people would recognize the "$100 return" and know that it must be a glitch. But, 40% off is not unusual. Right now I am looking at booking a flight to Tel Aviv and the price is $541, return. But, if I leave couple of days later in December it is over $1100. I am not making a comment on these practices, for I realize the way this is done, but as a consumer how am I suppose to know? So, that is before and during the purchase. Let us say that after the purchase the airline industry informs us about a mistake. Rabbi, I suppose we should aim your words at the airline industry. "Should your passengers really go to Israel with guilt the airline has inflicted upon them? Is that fair?" If the airline industry were really that concerned then they would have given thought to such a question. They would have known that they, meaning people who run it, bear responsibility as much as those who buy the tickets. Thus, as much as it is easy to place the responsibility on the person, I think that the onus should be on the airline. The proper thing for the airline would have been to close the loophole and not say anything and allow the people to enjoy their good fortune. As I said before, prices in the airline industry are all over the place. The airline industry has us trained to expect this and we purchase accordingly. By the way, I did not get the cheap ticket, either.


Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment

Receive Weekly Current Issues Emails

Sign up to our Current Issues Jewsletter.

Our privacy policy