Swiss is under fire after its flight from Zurich to Tel Aviv on Thursday, September 27 displayed the name of a Palestinian Arab village which was abandoned in 1948 prior to the Arab-Israeli war in place of Tel Aviv on the aircraft’s ‘moving map’ display.
The destination Tel Aviv is listed, but where it would go on the map has been replaced by the name of a town that was abandoned 70 years ago.
Swiss International Air Lines flight LX252 from Switzerland to #TelAviv, #Israel this past Thursday: the onboard flight map omits Tel Aviv and replaces it with the Arabic name of "Esh Sheikh Muwannis"
— StandWithUs (@StandWithUs) October 3, 2018
It turns out that Swiss didn’t intend to display the town of Esh Sheikh Muwannis on the flight — their policy is to turn off the moving map as they approach Tel Aviv so they don’t display anything at all so that they can avoid showing Israel with hopefully less controversy.
we apologise for having caused negative feelings. As a privately owned company, we are politically neutral with no intent to make political statements. Our procedure with this standardised map is to turn it off, which didn't work accurately on this specific flight.
— Swiss Intl Air Lines (@FlySWISS) October 4, 2018
Swiss is a subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa Group, so indeed private, though I’m unclear on why that should protect them from criticism.
The airline tells The Points Guy writer Jordan Allen,
Knowing of the situation in the Middle East and based on the experience that it is not possible to suit every guest on board, we have a procedure in place that ensures that the map is turned off manually by the crew at least 30 minutes before arriving in Tel Aviv. This way, the display as shown in the photo doesn’t come up. In this particular case, obviously and unfortunately, the map was not turned off in time.
Since they’re printing Tel Aviv as the destination on tickets and boarding passes, and operating at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, it’s far from clear how their refusal to show Tel Aviv on a map skirts the issue of Palestinian-Israeli relations, if indeed displaying the destination on a map would somehow be taking sides.
It’s odd as well to think that showing Tel Aviv on a map to passengers will be what uniquely makes those customers uncomfortable when they’re headed to Tel Aviv and will be in Tel Aviv and see the name all over on arrival.
Choosing to display Esh Sheikh Muwannis is particularly ironic if Swiss is claiming to ‘remain neutral’ since the town was the location of a famous 1946 rape of an Israeli girl by three villagers which led to violent retaliation against the perpetrators — two years before the town’s abandonment. And whether intended or not it’s being used to inflame passion against Israel as well as stirring up critics of the country’s removal.