They say if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But not if you were buying tickets to Israel today on El Al Airlines, where tickets were going for as low as $350 roundtrip.
Bethany Mandel and her husband, Seth, of Washington Heights had planned on taking a vacation in February but never dreamed it could be to Israel.
“We couldn’t afford it,” Mandel, 26, said. “I have enough miles for a domestic flight, but not enough to fly overseas.”
But while working Monday as the social media manager for Commentary Magazine, Mandel said Dan’s Deals tweeted a link about a sale at El Al. She said she didn’t find the sale at Orbitz but found it at Expedia. After conferring with her husband, an editor at Commentary, she booked two, nine-day roundtrip tickets in February at a total cost of $700.
Mandel said she then contacted a friend who is planning to be married in Israel later this year and that she booked flights for her wedding party. And she said someone else she knows booked a roundtrip flight during Christmas week for himself, his wife and son for a total of $1,040. One Twitter user claimed to have paid $178 for a roundtrip ticket.
A spokeswoman for El Al, Sheryl Stein, said it was a third-party mistake and that all of the tickets would be honored, despite what some Facebook and Twitter users might claim.
Stein told the Web site VIN News "When any airline files fares, they get filed to an outside company who posts the fares. We filed our fares and the outside company neglected to add in the fuel surcharges. The mistake was theirs, not ours."
Around 3 p.m. on Monday, a tweet from ELAL USA read "An outside company posted incorrect fares on travel websites, so all tickets sold will indeed be honored."
The travel web site Dan's Deals, which alerted consumers about the deal, said on Monday "I’m not going to speculate on why the tickets were so cheap, though it does seem likely that they forgot to include a fuel surcharge. However the [De[artment of Transportation] has strict rules that prohibit airlines from charging additional fees after a ticket is issued or from cancelling paid tickets, so I do think that these tickets will be honored."
Mandel said via Twitter that when she called an El Al representative she was told the flight would be honored. "The agent said "ohh wow…" when she saw what we paid."
The incident sparked a debate over Jewish ethics with some saying it is impermissable to benefit from the company's error. Commenters on the VIN site story cited the Talmudic concept of Mekack Taut, or deriving a benefit from a contract with a flawed understanding by one of the parties, which the sages prohibited.
On his Facebook page Meir Weingartern, president of Ariel Tours, which books trips to Israel, posted that alumni of a Brooklyn yeshiva had sent out an email to supporters urging them to take advantage of "ridiculously cheap' fares in order to attend a yeshiva event in Israel.
"Hillel taught the convert "do unto others what you want others to do unto you", wrote Weingarten. "Think about your own life. If you made a costly error how would you like others to act? Are we acting in the same way?"