The recent El Al blunder regarding ticket underpricing raises a number of ethical and halakhic issues. R. Yair Hoffman ably addressed many in an article for the Five Towns Jewish Times (link). I wish to address a few more and offer a slightly different conclusion. Briefly, El Al’s contracted third party mistakenly offered round-trip tickets to Israel at insanely low prices (approximately $300-400). El Al has stated that this was an error. Are customers allowed to insist that El Al honor the tickets or is the sale void due to the mistake? I think it is important to state that while El Al cannot really be blamed for this, the way the airline industry in general prices tickets leads to aggressive customer purchasing. Tickets never have a stable price. The prices vary based on time, oil prices, airline expectations and so much more that they are mathematically unpredictable (link). One travel agent described purchasing a ticket as bidding on a commodity. This opaque procedure transforms the experience of travel preparation into a constant race to outsmart the airlines. This race is unwinnable because even when you think you paid a good price, you can never really know whether you are being taken advantage of… except in this case. These El Al customers beat the system in a highly adversarial process. The airline calling “time out” because it lost seems like poor sportsmanship.

El Al Ethics

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I. Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The recent El Al blunder regarding ticket underpricing raises a number of ethical and halakhic issues. R. Yair Hoffman ably addressed many in an article for the Five Towns Jewish Times (link). I wish to address a few more and offer a slightly different conclusion.

Briefly, El Al’s contracted third party mistakenly offered round-trip tickets to Israel at insanely low prices (approximately $300-400). El Al has stated that this was an error. Are customers allowed to insist that El Al honor the tickets or is the sale void due to the mistake?

I think it is important to state that while El Al cannot really be blamed for this, the way the airline industry in general prices tickets leads to aggressive customer purchasing. Tickets never have a stable price. The prices vary based on time, oil prices, airline expectations and so much more that they are mathematically unpredictable (link). One travel agent described purchasing a ticket as bidding on a commodity. This opaque procedure transforms the experience of travel preparation into a constant race to outsmart the airlines. This race is unwinnable because even when you think you paid a good price, you can never really know whether you are being taken advantage of… except in this case. These El Al customers beat the system in a highly adversarial process. The airline calling “time out” because it lost seems like poor sportsmanship.

The system as it stands is unfair and conducive to cheating. If the industry would assign a flat price to tickets, customers would not feel obligated to wage war against the airlines every time they need to fly somewhere. Why is there no regulation about this? Why have consumer advocates failed to reform this broken system of pricing? Regardless, an airline calling “foul play” seems tasteless, even offensive, when customers usually feel like the victims of this system.

II. Invalid Sale?

However, the real question we face is whether those people who bought those mistakenly priced tickets must return them for a refund. Once they learned that El Al sold them at a price set in error, do the rules of ona’ah apply, which would render the sale invalid due to extreme over- or under-pricing? Some argue that because El Al used a third party, that third party should pay for the mistake. However, the laws of ona’ah are stronger when a third party is involved (Shulchan Arukh, Choshen Mishpat 227:30). The seller (El Al) can say that it only appointed the third party to benefit its interests and not to hurt them. Therefore, there is good reason to say that the sale is invalid.

You could also say that because airline fares vary so greatly, there is no market price and the low fares under discussion cannot be overly low. This seems to me to be the case discussed by the Sho’el U-Meishiv (4:3:136 – link) that R. Hoffman cites (in the article above). However, R. Tzvi Spitz (Mishpetei Ha-Torah, vol. 2 no. 26 – link) rules differently in an analogous case. An antique was sold for NIS 1,000 and was later discovered to be worth closer to NIS 50,000. Antiques have no market price and the real value for the item could be anywhere between NIS 10,000-50,000, depending on the bidders at any given time. However, R. Spitz ruled that NIS 1,000 is below any reasonable estimate and therefore constitutes ona’ah, an underpriced sale that is void. Similarly, while the price of tickets to Israel varies greatly, the mistaken price is well below any reasonable possibility.

R. Hoffman quotes a responsum of the Rosh (13:20) in which the Rosh rules that failing to charge for one item does not void the sale on other items. R. Hoffman compares this to the El Al situation: failing to charge for the fuel surcharge does not void the sale on the ticket. I cannot find this point in the Rosh’s responsum (the only relevant point I can find is in the second column of this page: link). I also question whether the fuel surcharge can be separated from the price of the flight (which R. Hoffman addresses but I’m not sure he is totally convincing). This single issue is important because it is probably the second strongest argument for sustaining the sale. All other argument, except for this and the next, point to a sale that is invalid, in which case customers must return their tickets. However, I find it too complex for my judgment. I need a more expert opinion to decide this issue.

Finally, El Al agreed, at least at one time, to honor the tickets. This constitutes mechilah, forgiveness of the underpricing and validation of the sale. Once the company agreed to the sale, they cannot halakhically revoke the consent.

III. Be Good

There is, of course, a more important idea at work. Should we be taking advantage of someone else’s mistake? R. Asher Meir (The Jewish Ethicist, pp. 111-112) discusses a similar case in which a retiree is unsure whether he may take advantage of a corporate airline discount. R. Meir suggests he contact the airline and ask them:

Taking improper advantage of discounts makes us feel clever and virtuous at the same time. We congratulate ourselves on our thrift, and reassure ourselves that we are helping the company by giving it our business… The best rules for dealing with these second-guessing situations is, don’t guess. If you’re not absolutely sure you’re doing someone a favor, play by the rules. If this airline decides that it’s in their interest to offer you the discount, let them extend it to you…

As the book of Proverbs tells us, “stolen waters are sweet.” This corresponds to the special sense of achievement we sometimes feel when we’ve gotten away with something. But the same book tells us that “one who hates gifts will live.” Life and vitality are our portion when we desire only those gifts which we deserve and which God sends us in a proper fashion.

Imagine if the newspapers had reported that thousands of Jews, on learning they had obtained a mistaken discount, had returned their tickets. What a Kiddush Hashem that would have been.

However, I find it hard to condemn the customers who failed to return their tickets. The adversarial nature of airline ticket purchasing has created this atmosphere, which results in customers rejoicing in finally knowing that they are not the victims.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

59 comments

  1. Does a forced mechilah, such as this one which ElAl was compelled by law to be mochel, count as a halachically valid mechilah?

  2. It isn’t forced. It’s calculated.

  3. I’d be curious whether one could argue that at this point, it would be most appropriate (though likely not halachically necessary) that people pay the $75 fee to go direct instead of with a stopover. While pitched as a deal by ElAl, it’s most likely in truth a way for them to make rather than lose money on this glitch, as they have to pay the other airlines for code sharing on the flights through Europe. Getting everyone to fly direct only on ElAl while charging for it both earns them $150 per flight AND eliminates a huge extra cost to them.

    This would seem to be in the best interests of both the customer AND ElAl, and is at least nice and wise if not even more.

  4. (That should be $75 each way and $150 per round trip ticket.)

  5. I am not an expert but I believe it is likely that the marginal fuel costs alone are greater than the full plane of tickets sold at this price. I assume that of the thousands who knew about the tickets essentially all knew that it was a mistake not an intentional offer by El Al. Like Gil I don’t condemn people for not returning tickets.
    I am not a Halachik/Jewish Ethics expert but my educated guess is that many would have found great problems with glee that people who are supposedly influence by Torah got by taking advantage of others mistakes.
    There is a big difference between what Halacha demands and what is proper behavior-even assuming arguendo that one halachikally would win in a beis din-one must remember what I believe the Rav said “Halacha is a floor of proper behavior not the ceiling of proper behavior”
    I remember R Reisman in a Saturday night lecture once describing how he had to rule between two individuals in another schul and he ruled what proper behavior was rather than what the halacha said about who would win-and I believe he quoted Rav Pam for the idea that it is assumed that a Jew would want to act in a just manner rather than what he could win on halachik loopholes. Maybe from before the last 40 years or so it was assumed if one attended schul regularly went to minyan etc that ethical behavior would follow- sadly much has happened that one no longer assumes such behavior. Sadly there are many examples of such behavior.
    I am not saying that I wouldn’t have taken advantage of such a “bargain” but I suspect if I did that is simply part of yeridas hadorot.

  6. To Rav Gil – I really don’t understand the argument that they were mochel. As I understand it, they aren’t calculating, they are forced by American law to honor the tickets. How can that be a valid mechilah.

    Has there been a pesak issued by any leading poskim?

  7. I also think that this was a coerced mechila, at least as much as other cases of asmachta. They have no choice but to agree to the sale.

  8. I would also like to hear from a posek on this.

  9. I don’t get it. Has El Al asked for customers to return their tickets for a refund? No, so why should anyone volunteer? I don’t see why anone who bought the ticket in good faith should return what he bought, especially if he’s not even being asked to. If, however, someone bought the ticket knowing there was a mistake somewhere — that, I would think, is a different story.

  10. This kind of error probably happens a lot. I find it interesting that davka the one time it was caught by thousands was when it involved Jews and Israel. There’s probably a wealth of sociological insights to be gained there, perhaps some good, some bad.

  11. “If, however, someone bought the ticket knowing there was a mistake somewhere — that, I would think, is a different story.”

    I don’t believe anyone really could have believed that El Al intended to sell such tickets at such a price.
    ” I find it interesting that davka the one time it was caught by thousands was when it involved Jews and Israel.”
    see eg NY Post comment

    “Round-trip tickets between New York and Israel that usually cost around $1,600 were miraculously being offered for less than $400 Monday, thanks to an El Al Airlines pricing glitch.
    The mistake was corrected after three hours — but not before at least 5,000 tickets were sold.
    It was every Hasid for himself as news of a bargain of biblical proportions swept through communities like Crown Heights, Borough Park and Williamsburg.
    Orthodox Jews frantically tried to score tickets for all members of their traditionally large families, from children to grandchildren to aunts, uncles and cousins.

    Some pregnant women even tried to book future flights for their unborn children.

    Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/festival_of_flights_2sLECxnYkDxGft8sl9PbfO#ixzz23Q2ddQvm

    ” There’s probably a wealth of sociological insights to be gained there, perhaps some good, some bad.”
    Agreed-certainly not showing vasita hayasher vahatov, kedoshim tiyu,following darcheiha darchei noam etc I’m not condemning individuals I if I knew may have taken advantage too but if so that is a non positive reflection on me.

  12. Only someone who is too young to remember what airline tickets cost in the days when fares were regulated would want regulated uniform fares again. Those were they days when “jet set” referred to the (economic) elite rather than salesmen, because airfare was so high. And kids never flew, because it was too expensive.

    I can usually get a round trip from Boston to Israel for around $800 (rarely on El Al though) so had I seen the fare, I might have thought it was just a great sale rather than an error.

  13. shachar haamim

    There was once a time in Jewish history – not so long ago – that if you’d have told the average Jew that he could pay the equivalent of half of one months take home pay for the average person to take a ride to the Land of Israel in a vehicle driven by a Jewish driver, flying under the flag of a Jewish state, with all the food being served kosher and the announcements would be made in Hebrew, the Jew would have asked the town leadership to have the person telling the story institutionalized for being delusional. Or the Jews of the town would have volunteered to spend double or triple the amount to get on the earlier trips with a one way ticket…
    that should put the $1,600 price in context.

  14. Airline web sites typically advertise one price for the flight, but by the time you enter your credit card details, it has nearly doubled due to added taxes and fees. When you get deceived enough times by a company, it is easy to reach the conclusion that you may swindle them back.

  15. Mycroft: I assume that of the thousands who knew about the tickets essentially all knew that it was a mistake not an intentional offer by El Al

    I wouldn’t be so sure. I know that I would have assumed the prices are real. Pricing is so irrational that this could just be some airline initiative. If my returning on a Monday rather than a Tuesday could raise the price by 20% and traveling one month is 40% higher than another month, this could just be a promotion and off-season rate or some other price feature that we don’t know about. That’s what happens when pricing is opaque. Only the customers who spend incredible amounts of time obsessing over this can understand it.

    AJL: I don’t know the details of the law but if it was so straightforward, they would not have equivocated.

    Baruch: Has El Al asked for customers to return their tickets for a refund? No, so why should anyone volunteer?

    If the sale is invalid, then using the tickets is theft.

    Mike S: Only someone who is too young to remember what airline tickets cost in the days when fares were regulated would want regulated uniform fares again

    There is a middle ground.

    Shachar haamim: pay the equivalent of half of one months take home pay for the average person to take a ride to the Land of Israel

    And for a family of six, already struggling to pay yeshiva tuition…?

  16. Interesting how there is little discussion of the status of corporations in halacha or in psychology. Thought experiment: if the ad had been posted by a Yeshiva or a gemach or a neoghbor trying to make some money by selling airline tickets would the reaction be different?

    KT

  17. I am pretty sure that they were legally obligated to honor the tickets. They did set up a special line and email address for people to return the tickets (can’t imagine it’s been ringing off the hook). Does not sound at all like a mechila to me…

  18. shachar haamim

    “Shachar haamim: pay the equivalent of half of one months take home pay for the average person to take a ride to the Land of Israel

    And for a family of six, already struggling to pay yeshiva tuition…?

    You know what my hypothetical, typical Jew from days gone by as described above would have done had the same person told him that the family of six would be taken on such ride for free – paid for by the country run by the Jews….

  19. Shachar haamim: Which is essentially conceding on my point that the airfare is unaffordable.

  20. Gil —
    You assume that El Al’s equivocation as to whether they would honor the tickets indicates that at the end of the day, they made a free choice, not compelled by DOT regulations.

    And what if the delay was only to ascertain whether they had a choice in the matter — and they concluded that they did not?

    Would you still say that this constitutes mechila?

  21. Thought experiment from a friend: if airlines benefit from public confidence in online ticket purchases and in order to maintain that confidence, they make a deliberate, business decision to waive any right to claim mistake, should they have to eat the occasional and forseeable loss?

    Thought experiment from me: if my local store makes a mistake and forgets to remove last week’s price sticker from an item and the store has a policy of honoring the lower price, do I have to offer to let them cancel?

  22. An important point that I haven’t seen discussed is the following: When you buy something online what is the kinyan? In this case all of the buyers bought online with a credit card. A credit card is not כסף, a credit card is you telling the credit card company to pay someone else. Given that the credit card company is a non-Jewish company there is no shlichus. If you didn’t make a kinyan then al pi din you didn’t really buy the ticket.

  23. R’MB
    I raised the point on credit card kinyan elsewhere-didn’t get any response which is why i would love to see a tshuva.
    KT

  24. Dovid Shlomo: My gut tells me that a legally required mechilah is still a mechilah, but I’d like to hear what a posek has to say about it.

    Marty: Purchasing online qualifies as minhag ha-sokhrim just as much as a handshake once did.

  25. Gil:

    If that’s the case, then you have effectively done away with the obligation to return ta’us Yisroel.

    Also, I don’t know why you call submitting to a compelled obligation “mechilah.” How is it not oness; there was no choice in the matter.

    (El Al’s trying to put their best foot forward by appearing magnanimous is PR, not mechilah.)

  26. I don’t understand why everyone is assuming that a legally compelled mechillah (it is not “coerced,” it is required by American law) does not count. There is a general rule in chosehn mishpat that when one engages in a transaction, one’s daas is to follow the generally accepted practice in such transactions. This includes the law of the land. (I believe the Iggros Moshe has a teshuva to this effect.) For example, if I rent an apartment from a frum landlord, if local law requires that he supply the apartment with a working stove and refrigerator, it is assumed lehalacha that his daas at the time of dealt (when we agreed on the rental) was in accordance with the law, since that is the generally accepted practice in that locale.

    Seems to me the same thing applies here. El Al operates voluntarily in the United States, serving an American market for travel to and from this country. Regulation of airlines is the law here, and has been so for some time. It is a fact of life. The “daas” of El Al (i.e. its managers) presumably is to follow whatever law is applicable here.

  27. Your critique of airline pricing as unfair is false, as flat pricing would make it impossible to fill empty planes or reserve the last seat on a full one for someone who needs it.

  28. Tal — This is a complex issue that includes, for instance, whether declaration of bankruptcy frees one of halachic obligation to Jewish creditors.

    Another example would be in the case of an unintended auto collision, particularly where the victim intends to pocket the money rather than fix the car, particularly if it’s an old car that already has multiple dents. Halacha, of course, requires that one pay for depreciation rather than repair. In the case of a car that already has multiple dents and where the damage is purely cosmetic, the depreciation is minimal while the cost of repair could be 10 times that amount.

  29. Gil, you question whether the fuel surcharge can be separated from the price of the ticket. The entire point of the “fuel surcharge” is to make the ticket look cheaper in the first place, and only afterwards are you told about another $400-$500 “surcharge”. If the airlines can separate them when they sell them, why can we not separate them when we buy them?

    A thought experiment: If Delta had done the same thing for tickets to Florida during Yeshiva break, and Orthodox Jews in the NY/NJ area had quickly gotten the word out on Facebook and through mass emails, would we have this crazy chest-beating and introspection? This type of error happens all the time – are we concerned about it only because it is El Al?

  30. Tal — This is a complex issue that includes, for instance, whether declaration of bankruptcy frees one of halachic obligation to Jewish creditors.

    I get that, I am not issuing a psak, just throwing out another thing for consideration.

    (As for the car accident, that does not fit into the rule I cited because the obligation to pay for damages has nothing to do with daas. A sale does)

  31. Aaron –
    Your assumptions are not correct.

    On Kayak and Expedia, the sites where these prices were advertised, the displayed price does include the fuel surcharge.

    As for your question about El Al vs Delta, the fact that it’s El Al does indeed make it more of an issue.

  32. Tal –
    An obligation to pay for damages very well fits in with the matter of daas, as one could argue that when one hits the road in the USA, it is with the daas that he will have to pay for all damages according to the laws of the land, just as one would argue regarding a commercial transaction.

  33. “Tal –
    An obligation to pay for damages very well fits in with the matter of daas, as one could argue that when one hits the road in the USA, it is with the daas that he will have to pay for all damages according to the laws of the land, just as one would argue regarding a commercial transaction.”

    Sorry, don’t agree. The mechayev of paying for damages in the Torah is the parshah of nezikin. Nothing to do with daas.

    OTHO, the mechayev in many transactions, including sales is a kinyan mi daas. There daas is a crucial aspect of what is occuring halakhically, and the general custom among similar sellers factors in.

  34. r’ gil,
    I posited elsewhere the minhag hasochrim possibility. It’s my recollection that this is not universally accepted lchatchila (e.g. for airline tickets there may be a 24 hour required ability to back out of the purchase – is that a kinyan? What if the merchant doesn’t get the sales report till 2 days later….)
    KT

  35. Tal —
    You are free to disagree, but the sevora I gave you is one that is used in Batei Din in matters involving claims for automobile damage.

    Although it would not apply in a case where I intentionally dent your car with a hammer, it might very well apply where I unintentionally do so as a driver. The sevora is that when one hits the road, there is an implicit commitment to pay for damages according to the law of that land, especially since one is only allowed to drive if one has a government-issued license.

    This is why I used the example of a car crash as opposed to other types of nezek.

    The claim is not so poshut in Beis Din, though, and is not do poshut in the case of El Al either, IMHO.

  36. I would add that one can be fairly certain that those who refuse to return the El Al tickets, citing daas would be very quick to claim that their frum clients who have declared bankruptcy nevertheless owe them the money al pi halacha.

  37. “If Delta had done the same thing for tickets to Florida during Yeshiva break, and Orthodox Jews in the NY/NJ area had quickly gotten the word out on Facebook and through mass emails, would we have this crazy chest-beating and introspection? This type of error happens all the time – are we concerned about it only because it is El Al?

    The other side of this analysis is what if an error of this nature had been made by your local Judaica store whose owner lives down the block from you (as does mine). It’s hard for me to imagine anyone taking advantage of such a situation. ISTM that the real issue (as opposed to the technical halachic one) is that it happened to a large faceless corporation. The only mitigating factor is that it is a Jewish/Israeli corporation.

    The result: individual — rescind the transaction; your everyday large corporation — lucky you; a Jewish corporation — OTOneH, OTOtherH.

  38. Since most of these tickets were purchased via the Internet would that make them a metziah habaah baveira? 🙂

  39. I would add that one can be fairly certain that those who refuse to return the El Al tickets, citing daas would be very quick to claim that their frum clients who have declared bankruptcy nevertheless owe them the money al pi halacha.

    Dovid, I don’t know why you have to inject cynicism here. People are entitled to pursue their own interests, as long as they follow halakha. That’s why you need a neutral party — a beis din — to decide who is right.

    And furthermore, I don’t know if the two situations you cite are the same. Bankruptcy is generally a remote possibility. Who is thinking of bankruptcy when you provide a service to someone, or when you loan someone money, or any of hundreds of other everyday transactions?

    OTOH, if you operate an airline, government regulation is very much on your mind. It is a constant fact of life. When El Al operates an airline in the U.S., its managers clearly are aware and factor in the risk that if they err in quoting a price, the DOT regulations require them to honor the quoted price. (Or so has been claimed here, I am no airline lawyer.)

  40. Tal —
    Nothing to do with cynicism.

    Rather, it has to do with what is halachically correct, which involves spirit-of-the-law factors (as well as spiritual factors. The issue is not so much as to whether one would “win” were this brought to a Din Torah, but what is correct on other levels as well.

    BTW, do you concede why the case of a traffic accident can include the claim of daas?

  41. BTW, do you concede why the case of a traffic accident can include the claim of daas?

    Since you say that some hold like that, there is some argument to be made in its support. I’d like to see a teshuvah holding that way. Till then, it seems to me to be quite a stretch to say that every time you drive your car, then you have a hischayvus mi daas that in the unlikely event that you get into an accident, that you agree to pay damagesm (assuming you are negligent).

    That’s a very different situation to where clearly there is an hischayvus mi daas and the only question is what did the parties intend. Like the rental case — clearly the landlord intends to rent an apartment, and the tenant intends to rent it for a time. What is included in the rental? A working refrigerator and stove? For that, local custom, including local laws, is highly informative.

  42. Tal –
    In the case of a car accident, where the other guy (a yid) was at fault, you would say that all he owes you is depreciation, not repair?

  43. Tal –
    In the case of a car accident, where the other guy (a yid) was at fault, you would say that all he owes you is depreciation, not repair?

    No, that is what halakha says. Or so you claim, and I believe that is correct.

  44. Tal —
    I did not say that this was the halacha.
    I said that it was a legitimate sevora.

  45. I was talking to a friend of mine about this over the weekend. His sister in law who is a travel agent stated that El-Al had no choice because its the law that they cannot rescind an offer, even made in error and that if they did rescind it, the FAA could potentially bar them from flying into U.S. airports, thus creating a major decline in their tourism base which last I checked, a bulk of it comes from North America.

  46. Gil,
    minhag ha-sokhrim is not so simple here for a number of reasons:.
    1. What exactly are you buying here? This may be considered a דבר שאין בו ממש and therefore according to many acharonim just like a regular kinyan won’t work neither will minhag ha-sokhrim.
    2. minhag ha-sokhrim may only be a kinyan d’rabbanan (Nesivos and others). Therefore it may not work for a non-Jew which may be who they were buying from in this case.

    There are other issues as well. You can’t just dismiss the issues with buying with a credit card on the internet as minhag ha-sokhrim


  47. minhag ha-sokhrim is not so simple here for a number of reasons:.
    1. What exactly are you buying here? This may be considered a דבר שאין בו ממש and therefore according to many acharonim just like a regular kinyan won’t work neither will minhag ha-sokhrim.

    This is a good point, but has nothing to do with whether buying something over the internet with a credit card is a good kinyan. If you gave an El Al represetnative a sack of gold coins, you’d still have the same issue.

    (As my chavrusa in law school once pointed out to me, the whole Anglo-American concept of a contract does not exist in halakha. That is a kinyan devarim, which is ineffective.)

    2. minhag ha-sokhrim may only be a kinyan d’rabbanan (Nesivos and others). Therefore it may not work for a non-Jew which may be who they were buying from in this case.

    For non-Jews you have dina de malchusa.

  48. can someone who really knows what they are talking about comment on whether el al was really legally required or not to honor the tickets? it shouldn’t be that difficult to point to a specific law or regulation. thank you.
    (perhaps the airline industry is an exception, but i always thought that advertisers are not bound by printing and other errors? and in any case what burden does el al bear when it wasn’t even their fault but rather the third party?)

  49. MiMedinat HaYam

    airlines are exempt from (local) consumer affairs and advertising type law / regulation (part of aviation law; i think its the fAA law, even though one may think its a safety law.) only federal law applies, biased towards the airline. (there was a recent federal law that requires tickets to include fuel surcharges, etc in all their advertising, but i understand there are holes in the law.)

    also, airlines MUST issue some sort of “writing” that references warswa convention, otherwise that $50,000 limit may not apply. (intl airline accident litigation tries to claim that all the time. its only really good as a negotiation tactic.)

    2. your claim that third party is less of a defense is faulty — the third party is authorized to display using el al’s web site and / or name. also, i presume the third party contract includes am error respon$iblity clause.

    3. “Thought experiment from me: if my local store makes a mistake and forgets to remove last week’s price sticker from an item and the store has a policy of honoring the lower price, do I have to offer to let them cancel?”

    i believe there is a halacha (and definitely NYC consumer affairs law) that one may not change prices, once set. thus removing price stickers is not allowed. thus, supermarkets no longer have price stickers.

  50. shachar haamim

    Hirhurim on August 13, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Shachar haamim: Which is essentially conceding on my point that the airfare is unaffordable.

    I don’t think that getting a free one way ticket to live in the land that has been the focal point of Jewish belief and practice for over 3500 years is unaffordable. it’s as good as it has ever been throughout Jewish history. If the tickets for the occassional visit to E”Y have become unffordable to many, maybe it’s time to make them unnecessary for many…

  51. MiMedinat HaYam

    in the artscroll biography of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dovid_Povarsky, it discusses (approvingly) how rav povarsky hid in the cargo hold of a ship from crimea to palestine, since he had no $ to pay his fare …

  52. “I can usually get a round trip from Boston to Israel for around $800 (rarely on El Al though) so had I seen the fare, I might have thought it was just a great sale rather than an error”

    Which using the great Cambridge source ITA-although it is now owned by Google-one can find fares of that magnitude-I believe recently only via Moscow Kiev or Turkey- via other European cities are at least $1000 or so for least expensive times of year. From NY both Delta and El Al cheapest are about 1100 at cheapest times of year. If one believed it was a great sale rather than an error my thoughts are different.

    “Mycroft: I assume that of the thousands who knew about the tickets essentially all knew that it was a mistake not an intentional offer by El Al

    I wouldn’t be so sure. I know that I would have assumed the prices are real. Pricing is so irrational that this could just be some airline initiative. If my returning on a Monday rather than a Tuesday could raise the price by 20% and traveling one month is 40% higher than another month, this could just be a promotion and off-season rate or some other price feature that we don’t know about. That’s what happens when pricing is opaque. Only the customers who spend incredible amounts of time obsessing over this can understand it”

    If that is what you believe the facts are I don’t disagree-one does not have to spend incredible time “obsessing” over anything to understand the difference between a cheap price of $800 and $350 Pesach time for example.

  53. How does the halachic discussion change if this incident occurred with another airline (i.e. different ownership)?

  54. in the artscroll biography of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dovid_Povarsky, it discusses (approvingly) how rav povarsky hid in the cargo hold of a ship from crimea to palestine, since he had no $ to pay his fare …

    I find it hard to believe that an Artscroll biography would speak approvingly of making aliyah 🙂

  55. MiMedinat HaYam

    shlomo — i thought so too.

    it was an issue of an (evil) step parent, according to the bio. if not stay in lita, then why not “palestine”? (of course, called “eretz yisrael”.) of course, there was no denying he became RY of ponevez, so his “zionist” leanings had to be explained. mesirut nefesh, other buzz words.

  56. milhouse trabajo

    Glad to see R’ Asher Meir’s approach (which i was “mechavein” too). now i’m just hoping that the non-stop ticket changes etc. are enough to make this deal worthwhile to an extent that ELAL will be truly ok with the deal…

  57. JewishStoryWriting

    Those who got fares at $300-$400 were really really lucky!

  58. milhouse trabajo

    so i sent a couple emails now and still have not gotten a response from ELAL. I spoke to a customer service rep and he said (in a little broken hebrew) the directive from above was to do their best to help those who want to turn their tix into non-stop tix, and they are happy for everyone and there was no hint that they should encourage people to cancel, just that they can until Aug 31 and then they will not be able to cancel no matter what.

    The problem with R Meir’s advice here is it really puts people on the spot, and they don’t want to lose the bad press by encouraging (or in any way admitting that they want), so i don’t know if i will ever really get a straight answer. ELAL is not a singular being with an opinion, but lots of people taking all sorts of non-essential factors into consideration as to whether “ELAL” is ok with going through with this, and they refuse to officially say that the nonstop change will help them at all (the rep said this is just for the convenience of the tourists).

  59. milhouse trabajo

    Swarti at ELAL (who was probably the nicest customer rep i remember dealing with), just called me in reply to my email and she said that she had confirmed with her supervisors that they want us to come to Israel, preferably nonstop but only to improve our experience (her words, though i’m sure the money is also involved) rather than canceling the tickets. i’m still not fully convinced, but my conscience has been adequately soothed to take advantage!

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