Bill Gale, El Al Airlines’ West Coast Regional Manager, died in February in Los Angeles from a heart attack. He was a passionate traveler and started his tenure in the travel industry working as a reservation agent for Continental Airlines while pursuing a career in art. He later discovered a completely new segment of the travel industry, when he joined Newman’s South Pacific Vacations.
In 1990, Gale joined STA Travel as a director and helped the business grow dramatically. Coworkers said this position suited him perfectly because of his “charisma, personable nature and his will to learn and excel in every task.”
Gale later moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he learned Spanish and was hired by Asatej Travel, one of the largest travel companies in South America. Based on his experience, Gale organized and developed a reservation center that was both innovative and successful.
In 1998, he moved back to the U.S. and applied, along with 600 other applicants for a position as regional manager of El Al Airlines; after a six-month process, Gale was offered the senior position, becoming the first American to reach that executive level at the airline.
El Al Airlines introduced Gale to a more diverse market with new challenges. The complexity of the situation in the Middle East was always part of his daily concerns, and Gale made an effort to stay in tune with the latest events in the region. It did not take long before he was called “Mr. El Al” by those in the travel idustry, and Gale become well known as an advocate for Israel. During his 11 years in the position, the Los Angeles office hit high sales marks under his guidance, helping to earn the region nonstop service to Israel.
His passing came as a surprise — it occured on his last day working for El Al, just as he was transitioning to the boutique hotel industry with an inn on the Uruguayan coast. Gale and his longtime girlfriend Andrea Laffitte were planning to open the hotel, when he died.
Of his passing, coworkers said, “The industry lost a knowledgeable executive and a dear friend that supported travel agents, wholesalers and tour operators.”