New El Al online service helps passengers share rides to and from the airport

Platform, accessed by smartphone, said to be first of its kind produced by an airline; it will allow customers of any airline to split a taxi or drive together

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Taxis from the company Hadar at Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv, May 29, 2017. (Flash90)
Taxis from the company Hadar at Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv, May 29, 2017. (Flash90)

El Al Israel Airlines has launched a new digital service that allows passengers to pool taxis and share rides when they reach their destinations, including in Israel, enabling them to cut costs of getting to and from the airport. This marks the first time an airline has provided such a service to customers, the nation’s flagship carrier said on Tuesday.

The service is provided to El Al passengers as well as those of other airlines. The airline does not provide the car service, just the platform – a website. Interested passengers register, and then the site matches them with other passengers on the same flight, with whom they can share a taxi or catch a ride. This saves costs, helps the environment and allows passengers to meet new people in a foreign country, the statement said.

Passengers who want to use the service access the site — at the moment only via their smartphones — and enter a number of details such as flight number and date of flight, address they need to go to from the airport, email address and phone number. El Al emphasized that this information is not transferred to other customers who have registered for the service.

Once a match is found, passengers receive a text or an email with a link to a secure and anonymous chatroom, where they can communicate directly to coordinate details, like setting up a meeting point and deciding what mode of transportation they will share.

“The service is completely free and is meant to improve the customer experience,” Shahar Markovitch, chief digital and information officer, said by phone. “We researched the matter and we saw that this is a major pain point for customers.”

For example, a trip from a London airport to the city center can cost close to NIS 500 ($138), El Al said in the statement.

“Israelis are not shy and they often ask people standing in the line if they want to share a taxi into town,” said Markovitch. “But not all passengers have the courage to do that. So, we took the idea and made it a digital solution.”

Markovitch said that the platform will continue to improve as the airline gets customer feedback. “We launched the most streamlined and quick version for now,” he said.

El Al’s digital unit team worked on the project together with a local startup, Markovitch said.

“This service is part of the company’s innovative approach in which we are launching innovative digital products to our customers and improving them all the time,” he said.

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