Global Traveler: Tell us about your service upgrades at El Al.
Offer Gat: In the summer of 2007, El Al received two new Boeing 777 aircraft that are equipped with flatbed seats in first and Platinum Business class. In addition, all the premiumclass seats on our existing 747-400 and 777 aircraft are currently being replaced with flatbeds, representing a $20-million investment.
This past September, El Al opened new, luxurious first- and businessclass lounges at New York JFK Airport. There’s a state-of-the-art business center and shower facilities. This is all part of a process of upgrading El Al services and the product we provide to all our customers, regardless of the class of service in which they travel.
Since El Al became a private airline in 2004, a new way of thinking developed and a five-year plan was established. Commercially, the only way for El Al to prosper is to be the best airline flying to Israel. Improvements in all levels of service, comfort, the food, the frequency of service and the flight schedule became a priority.
A more user-friendly frequent flyer club, an increase in the number of airline partnerships and an effort to expand the global network are just some of the many achievements El Al has accomplished in the past threeplus years. Our president, Haim Romano, has been personally involved in every step of these massive changes. The positive financial results have so far proven the enormous efforts being made make a difference.
Our reservations call center has been centralized at our head office in Israel, which is beneficial to our passengers because we are able to provide service around the clock, yearround. All the reservation agents are fluent in English, as are most Israelis. In the United States, we have established a mini call center in New York that is dedicated to serving our premium-class passengers and our most frequent flyers. We feel that this additional personalized service is necessary for our most loyal and exclusive passengers in the U.S. market.
GT: In our annual GT Tested Awards, our readers voted El Al the “Best Airline for Security.” You have always been known for attention to security. How do you achieve such high standards?
OG: What I am allowed to say about our security is naturally quite limited. However, El Al maintains the highest level of security and safety at all times. After the tragic events of 9/11, when the FAA set new and much more stringent security requirements, El Al was the first airline allowed to fly because we met those new strict guidelines. The cost of our security is approximately $100 million per year. El Al maintains very close relations with all security agencies, especially with the TSA.
GT: Tell us about your career in aviation and travel.
OG: For 10 years, I was managing director of ISSTA, a very large Israeli company that specializes in student travel. I was also CEO of Tzabar, a domestic tour operator, and my most recent position for seven years was as CEO of Diesenhaus, the largest travel group in Israel. Prior to joining El Al, I was out of the travel industry for two years. During that time, I took a diving course, a parachuting course, started to ski, became a devoted bicycle rider and was involved in a variety of investments.
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