Landing in Tel Aviv, plane captain announces landing 'in Palestine'

Imagine you're an Israeli citizen coming home from Madrid.  Your plane lands safely at the Tel Aviv airport, and the pilot welcomes you home.

Except the pilot of an Iberia airliner apparently wasn't sure where he was when he announced he was preparing to land "in Palestine."

Times of Israel:

Lior, a passenger on the flight, told Channel 2 news that he was “a little bit shocked.”

“I don’t understand why he said this,” said Lior. “We live in the State of Israel and he should have said ‘Israel.’ There was a reason he didn’t say it in English. It was deliberate.”

Another passenger said “everyone noticed” that the pilot didn’t mention Israel by name.

One of the passengers sent a letter to the company complaining about the pilot’s conduct, saying he and his family “were very offended,” and adding, “It is inappropriate and does serve your company well,” Channel 2 reported.

The Spanish news website 20 Minutos reported on Thursday morning that the Israeli ambassador in Madrid penned a “tough letter” to the president of Iberia in which he asked him to take disciplinary measures against the pilot.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that an Iberia spokeswoman in Israel apologized on behalf of the airline and said the pilot who made the announcement would not be flying the route to Israel until the matter was fully investigated by the airline.

The airline is apparently backpedaling, now saying that the pilot never said the word "Palestine."

Spanish airline Iberia says it has found that the "Palestine comment" allegedly made by one of its pilots, was misunderstood.

The airline investigated complaints that the captain of a flight arriving in Israel announced he was "landing in Palestine".

Iberia found the captain adhered to the standard format, naming only the airports of origin and destination.

Passengers might have confused similar sounding words, the airline said.

Passengers said the pilot made the announcement mentioning Palestine in Spanish, and then said in English the plane was about to land, without mentioning Palestine or Israel.

During the subsequent investigation by the airline, crew members and several Spanish-speaking passengers confirmed that the announcement, given first in Spanish and subsequently in English, was "… we're now descending to land at our destination, Tel Aviv…".

The airline believes the confusion could have been caused by the similar sound of the Spanish words "destino", meaning "destination", and "Palestina".

"Both the company and the crew regret the misunderstanding and that some of our customers could have been offended by it," the airline said in a statement.

The incident happened as the Iberia Airlines flight 3316 approached Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport on Wednesday, Israeli media reported.

It sounds fishy.  I don't see how people could confuse the two words, even if they don't speak Spanish.  There's a different number of syllables and the difference between an "o" and an "a."  The Israeli passengers would all have to be "misunderstanding" the same thing for the explanation to stand up to scrutiny.

The pilot may have thought he was putting one over on the Jews by including "Palestine" in his remarks in Spanish and not English.  Perhaps the cockpit recorder could be used to settle the matter.