I flew back to the United States from Tel Aviv, Israel on January 21, 2013. My husband and I had planned to move back to the States to start our family. We had planned our trip for us to fly home once I had ended my first trimester to be on the safe-side.
We decided to fly with El Al due to its pristine security, little did we know, it was a huge mistake. When we arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport on January 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm, four hours prior to our flight which was scheduled for departure fo January 20, 2013 at 1:00 am, as instructed, I was extremely weak and tired. I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum and had already been hospitalized twice for correlating complications and decided not to postpone the trip due to the likelihood that my condition may worsen all together and I wanted to go ahead and get the trip over with.
As our time came to board the plane, we were excited to be able to finally rest during our eleven hour flight. Well, after boarding, we were told by the captain that there would be s short delay due to a mechanical issue; I was so tired that I fell asleep. An hour later, I woke up to chaos; people standing and yelling and one woman in particular screaming to be let off of the plane. She kept saying, “I smell gas, I smell gas, let me off of this plane!” The flight attendants calmed her and assured her that there was not a gas leak. Worried for our baby, I let the flight attendants know I was pregnant and I was also assured that everything was fine and that we would be up in the air in a short time. Three hours later, all of the passengers were up trying to search out of the right side of the plane’s windows to see something terrifying: hundreds of gallons of fuel flooding the tar-mat; we were terrified. Along with the visual panic, the smell was so intense that I began vomiting repeatedly. Finally, nearly an hour later, we were allowed to deplane. I was so weak I could hardly walk. My husband asked the flight attendants for a wheelchair and they explained that I would have to wait for all passengers to deplane before I could be helped; I was so sick from the smell of the gas that I simply leaned on my husband for assistance.
Once off of the plane, chaos set in. Hundreds of passengers were at the check-in desk trying to get their flights rebooked. My husband sat me in a chair and went to get me water as I was dizzy, pale, and weak. He again asked an El-Al employee for assistance and explained our situation and he was told, “you will have to get in line like everyone else.” After about fourty-five minutes, he had gotten our flight rebooked for 9 am the next morning. At this point, it was close 6 am. I told him I needed to rest so he went to the El Al VIP Lounge and once again explained our situation and asked the receptionist if I could lay down while he would try to rebook our flight for either later in the day or the next day so I could rest. Well, I was not allowed to enter the Lounge but I was able to sit in the chair in the waiting area. About thirty minutes had passed when I was told I needed to leave; with zero energy left, I grabbed my bag and slept on the floor outside the lounge. My husband came back, exhausted from the situation found me asleep, pale, and exhausted. He explained that El Al was not willing to move our flight without being paying a substantial fee. After hearing this, I was so angry and so ready to be home that the thought of trying to locate our luggage, getting in a cab, checking into a hotel, and coming back to the airport the next day overwhelmed me that I convinced him that the best thing to do is to get home ASAP. 9 am came and so did another delay. At 10 am we finally boarded and we were in the sky about an hour later.
As we land in JFK Airport, I could not walk. My husband escorted me off of the plane in a wheelchair, and we were the last to deplane. We made our way to JetBlue, which was our connecting flight. When we went to check-in we were told that El Al did not reserve our seats for the next available flight as were told. My husband gave the receptionist the documentation given to us by El Al and we told that El Al did not do their job and that the connecting flight home to NC was boarding in fifteen minutes and that we probably would not make it; the next flight home was the next day, January 22, 2013. She worked franticly to get us home. She smiled, brought us water, snacks, and even had an EMT check on me to make sure I was ok to fly. I was told to stay hydrated and stay seated in the wheelchair. A few minutes later, she got the call that we were approved to board the plane. We were so relieved to be with these people that actually cared that I cried.
What happened after that was amazing, a Jet Blue employee grabbed my wheelchair, held my hand and said, “hold on tight, we’re gonna get you home”. My husband grabbed our bags and we were running through the airport! She got us to the front of the line for security and called our gate to hold the plane. As we ran, I was so worried that the fumes from the gas leak, the vomiting, the stress from the situation, and the pure exhaustion that I was feeling would have a terrible effect on my pregnancy; all I could do was pray that my child would be okay. Gate by gate she ran and she got us on the plane! I will forever be thankful to JetBlue!
Although this happened to my husband and I a little over a year ago, I am only sending this letter in now because of what happened today, February 21, 2014. Today, I called El Al to ask about transferring my miles to my AAdvantage account and I needed some direction on how to do so. I waited on hold for 35 minutes and was transferred three different times. As I finally arrived to the correct representative, I was asked for my Matmid account number. I let the representative know that I do not know my number and even apologized for this inconvenience yet that I would be happy to provide her with my name, social security number, birthday, and address in order to assist her in helping me. She then stated, “Call back when you have the number!” I explained very calmly and politely that I do not have the number but would be happy to retrieve it if she could instruct me how to do so. She then exclaimed in a very forceful and elevated tone, “Call back with the number!” and hung up.
I had planned to send my story to the press in order to highlight a company’s poor service in hopes that a change could be made for the better on their part. But, after we landed, my condition worsened and six months later we were greeted with our healthy, baby boy. We were so overwhelmed with happiness that we decided to let the situation go. Today, I realized that this company must be called out on its poor behavior to its patrons.