Thursday, April 30, 2009

BMI airline wipes Israel off the map

from The Jerusalem Post
April 30, 2009

Israel has been excluded from digital maps displayed for passengers on British airline BMI flights from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv.

Instead of viewing Tel Aviv or other Israeli cities signposted on screens, customers flying on two BMI-owned Airbus A320 airplanes have instead been exclusively shown Haifa, spelled 'Khefa' - the Arab name of the city before 1948.

BMI, which runs flights to Tel Aviv twice daily, has declared that the maps displayed are a logistical error due to the company's failure to modify the system created by British airline BMED (British Mediterranean Airways), now defunct, who BMI acquired the planes from two years ago.

BMED, formerly a franchise of British Airways, was absorbed into BMI in October 2007 and previously flew primarily to the Middle East - specifically to Amman, Beirut and Damascus, but not Israel. The maps were therefore previously tailored to its Muslim passengers, said the company, and also highlighted Islamic holy sites.

BMI spokesperson Phil Shepherd told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the "old maps" were due to be deactivated on Thursday night and new maps, which will label Israel and Tel Aviv, were set to appear on screens in two weeks.

Shepherd commented, "Because of the routes that [BMED] flew at that time, that's why the digital map was showing what it was showing… When we bought [BMED] out, we integrated it into BMI… The moving map should have been disabled when the software was updated, so the moving map shouldn't have been operating at all. It only came to light recently that it was still showing. We had a procedure to switch it off… when we started the Tel Aviv route… but for some reason it wasn't disabled."

British Airways declined to comment on the BMED maps, stating that the airline was simply a franchise that was not run by British Airways.

BMI also made headlines lately for firing a staff member refusing to fly to Saudi Arabia. $22,000-a-year flight attendant Lisa Ashton was told to wear a black robe, known as an 'abaya,' which covers everything but the face, feet and hands, in public places in Saudi Arabia. She was also instructed to walk behind her male colleagues, irrespective of rank. Ashton, a practicing Christian, filed for unfair dismissal at a UK employment tribunal earlier this year; however the court dismissed the case, stating that BMI was justified in imposing "rules of a different culture" on staff. Ashton may seek a judicial review of the decision and has been in consultations with human rights organization Liberty.
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