I feel that to insist on a ‘special’ kosher meal on El Al flights is to fail to acknowledge the real effort and expense that El Al incurs by providing kosher food to all of its passengers. If I ordered a special meal, I would feel guilty for broadcasting to the other El Al passengers that I don’t think their food is kosher ‘enough’ (let alone that I’d feel guilty about getting my meal before everybody else).
That said, I always order the chicken.
My experiences from last week introduced a new variable into my thinking about El Al. As I wrote, our flight was grounded until after Shabbat. El Al played by the rules – the flight didn’t leave until after Shabbat, and we were all provided with kosher food. However, I got the impression that El Al was not concerned about creating a Shabbat environment. We didn’t stick around for Shabbat because nobody (but me) was worrying about organizing minyanim, getting a Sefer Torah, grape juice, tea lights, or Challah. For all I know, we would have been served airline food all Shabbat, as we were served airline food for lunch on Friday.
Interestingly enough, that never would have happened on another airline. Another airline, knowing nothing about Judaism, would have made every effort to insure that its passengers were well taken care of, would have contacted the local Jewish community about accommodations, and would have taken every passenger request seriously. El Al, because it supposedly ‘knows’ the religious customer, did what it normally does without thinking that this case might be different, or that this case might involve a host of issues that it is not equipped to deal with.
UPDATE: Now that I think about it more (thanks to BZ's comment), maybe it's just about expectations. Maybe with another airline I would never even expect a kosher meal or Shabbat arrangements, and it's on;y disappointing because El Al takes Shabbat into account, but doesn't come all the way through.