Passengers were shocked to discover that Israel had been wiped off the map by Britain’s BMI airline, which omitted the Jewish state from its digital charts on flights from London to Tel Aviv.
Neither Jerusalem nor Tel Aviv itself, which is Israel’s largest city, were shown on the airline’s in-flight map. However, the orientation of Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, was displayed on screens as well as the northern Israeli city of Haifa, written as “Khefa” — the city’s Arab name under the British Mandate before the war of independence in 1948.
BMI insisted that the map had not been drawn with an anti-Israel or political agenda in mind — rather the aircraft in question were recently bought from a bankrupt charter company that largely flew to Arab countries.
“For this reason the in-flight entertainment system in the two planes was made to adapt to the passengers flying to and from those destinations and therefore the map showed mainly places holy to Islam. If BMI had any political agenda in order not to anger neighboring countries, it would not have invested so much in the Tel Aviv line,” the airline said.
BMI recently reached an agreement with Israel’s Tourism Ministry to launch daily flights between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv. For years, it has operated routes to Muslim countries including Syria, Lebanon and Iran. The two aircraft used to run the flights to Tel Aviv were originally intended to arrive in those Arab countries, the airline said, and therefore the map was tailored to show sites holy to Muslims.
Israeli passengers filed a complaint against the airline with Israel’s Transportation Ministry. Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “By pretending not to go where they are actually going BMI will end up going nowhere. By erasing their Israeli destination from the map, they will risk being erased from the list of eligible airlines for Israelis.”