Icelandic punk rock band Hatari was flying Tel Aviv – London on El Al after performing in the ‘strictly non-political’ Eurovision Song Contest where they held banners that said “Palestine” in the colors of the Palestinian flag while voting was announced. And in a possibly related matter they wound up assigned to middle seats in the back of their aircraft.
— Palestine Alqadi (@ALQadiPAL) May 18, 2019
Airport staff are reported to have said “This is what they get” as retribution for the display. Apparently their seat assignments were being discussed online before they arrived at the airport.
Whether or not you support a two state solution, the trampling of Israel, or expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank it’s probably a good idea to secure advance seat assignments when traveling on El Al or any airline to avoid being given the leftovers.
On flights between Tel Aviv and Europe El Al does charge for seat selection on ‘Lite’ fares but people are willing to pay precisely because if they don’t they may wind up with undesirable middle seats, regardless of ideology — though a screen shot of a seat map suggests other seats were still available.
If a punk band, or anyone else, is intentionally given less desirable seats as a punishment that’s deplorable, but passengers should also take a certain amount of ownership for their travel experience too.
The band performed in Israel despite previously supporting cultural boycotts of the country, which could have made them ineligible to enter the country in the first place. They did not make an issue of their seat assignments until they had left Israel.