Aluf Eliezer Shkedi, El Al's CEO, during an event launching. (Photo: Roni Schutzer/Flash90) Aluf Eliezer Shkedi, El Al's CEO, during an event launching. (Photo: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
israeli airline security

Israeli airport security has often been the topic of newspaper and online columns, including, most recently, an article published this month on Mail Online, the website of UK newspaper Daily Mail.


“There is airport security and then there is El Al airport security,” begins the article, titled, “Maybe it’s time to ditch the security scanner and actually talk to people at airports…it works for El Al.”

El Al, Hebrew for “To the Skies,” has grown to serve more than 45 international destinations, offering several daily flights and world-class packages and services since its inaugural flight from Geneva to Tel Aviv in September 1948.

Unbeatable Israeli airline security, both in flight and on the ground, is what encourages so many travelers to choose the Israeli aircraft.

The way El Al had achieved its status as the safest airline in the world was through personal interaction with its passengers, rather than relying on technology – an interesting fact, considering Israel is known as a world center for hi-tech.

Since the hijacking of Flight 426 on July 23, 1968, by three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, there has been no successful attempt at terror aboard the Israeli carrier, although it is a prime target.

“El Al’s security kicks in long before the passenger will notice,” writes USA Today (Oct.1, 2001). “Call an El Al office in any city to book a ticket, and your name will be checked against a computer list of terrorist suspects compiled by Interpol, the FBI, Shin Bet (Israel’s intelligence service) and others.”

That standard has been maintained until today.

“El Al security experts scoff at the way that other countries think they can deal with terrorism merely by introducing the likes of full body scanners or getting people to take their shoes off,” the Mail Online article says.

“The only sure way of dealing with the threat is to talk to every passenger and find out whether they can tell a convincing account of their travel plans.”

Isaac Yeffet, an anti-terrorism expert and former head of security for El Al, in a CNN interview back in January 2010, said that having a well-trained agent interview each passenger before boarding has prevented terror in the air.

Richard Reid, known as the shoe bomber, was one of several examples Yeffet gave. Reid paid $3,000 for a ticket on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in 2001 and tried to hide explosives in his shoes. Had he been interviewed in advance by an El Al professional, he never would have made it as far as he did, Yeffet explained in the same interview.

Yeffet cited Reid’s complicated itinerary and his arrival at the airport with no luggage, among other strange details, pointing to the obvious conclusion that he was a highly suspicious passenger.

“What did we learn from this? Just to tell the passenger from now on, you take off your shoes when you come to the airport? This I call a patch on top of a patch,” Yeffet said.

“Stop relying only on technology,” he declared. “Technology can help the qualified, well-trained human being but cannot replace him.”

“If all the airlines did this, would it make airports even more chaotic places than they are at the moment? If you think how much time is wasted at airports in pointless queuing at the security scanner, you might argue that such time could be spent more profitably answering challenging questions,” notes the Mail Online columnist. “El Al provides convincing evidence of this approach.”

“For sure El Al spends more money on security than the American air carriers,” Yeffet asserts.” But the passengers are willing to pay for it if we can prove to them that they are secure when they come to take a flight.”

Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer for United with Israel
Date: Dec. 18, 2013