PERHAPS this is what happened:
The captain riding in the cabin was flown to NY to fly an other aircraft back to Israel. How much rest was he going to get in NY? The minimum legal rest time? Something like ten hours “rest” before he takes off again (or even less) ? At what time would he be arriving in NY ? Would he be able to get a decent sleeping period because of the jet lag ? What agreements were made between the pilot’s union and El Al ? If the agreement says that they should get a business or first class seat, was this the first time that El Al refused this or did the airline try to do this or did they already do this dozens of times??
What would the passengers of the flight back to Tel Aviv be thinking if they knew that their Captain had been flown in in economy sitting next to some noisy teenagers, unable to get some sleep or a decent meal. That he was then brought to a hotel, where he checked in at 4 PM NY local time, that he was picked up at 4 AM local time to fly a 747 with 300+ pax back to TLV and that he was so exhausted by take off time that he could hardly keep his eyes open during the take-off roll ?
If an airline wishes a captain to assume full responsibility of a plane worth several million of dollars and a few hundred lives with minimum rest in NY, the LEAST they can do is try to give him decent resting and catering facilities in first class on the flight into NY!
And if a Fedex pilot turns back to the hotel because of missing catering on board, I’m sure that he didn’t do this the first time it occurred. As a Fedex capt., he had probably been sleeping all day, and was getting ready to fly more then 10 hrs at night without any food (beverages missing as well perhaps ?) Perhaps this even happened several nights in a row, and the captain got fed up with this after several occurences? After he had written several reports to the company complaining about this, he was nearly forced to take this action. I’m sure the catering was provided (as it should be) on his next flight!
A decent seat or catering on board are, in these cases not just "comfort" items, but important contributions to safety in general. If there is one profession where it's important to have a good and comfortable resting period before going to "work", it sure is the profession of an airline pilot!!
Why am I writing all this? NOT because I want to defend or blame anybody or any company, but just to show that this MIGHT have been the situation. Let’s us not shoot, accuse or fire anybody, without knowing their side of the story!
Does that make any sense, Yyz717 ?