3 Reasons I Haven’t Reviewed EL AL… Yet

As you guys know, my blog is largely centered around reviewing new airlines, and I’ve been trying as many new ones as possible, especially this year. While I get a lot of requests for trying new airlines, the airline I hear from readers about the most is EL AL. “Lucky, why haven’t you flown EL AL?” Hell, some people have come up with insane conspiracy theories as to why I haven’t flown with them.

Well, Israel is on my list of places to visit this year (I’ve never been), and I’d sort of like to fly EL AL in theory. What has been holding me back? I guess there are three main considerations:

How does EL AL feel about pictures?

Israel is known for having the tightest airport and airline security in the world, and it works. Part of my job is taking pictures like crazy about every aspect of the experience. That includes the airport, lounges, onboard, etc. I always make an effort to be the first person aboard, and by the time the plane takes off, I’ll usually have already taken 200 pictures (of course I do so as subtly and unobtrusively as possible).

Occasionally I get told not to take pictures, though usually I can reason with the crew, and/or continue taking them subtly with my phone.

Based on the insanely high level of security surrounding Israel, I feel like I might have trouble with taking pictures. This is just an assumption on my part, but I don’t want to “waste” several flight segments on a new airline without being able to review the experience in full.

So you guys who have flown to/from Tel Aviv and/or flown EL AL tell me — will they give me a hard time for taking pictures?

EL AL’s mileage redemption rates are pretty bad

American AAdvantage and EL AL used to have a partnership, though unfortunately that ended in November 2014. That used to be the best way to redeem miles on EL AL, as the redemption rates were the same as for their other partners.

However, nowadays the only good way I know of to redeem on EL AL is through their own Matmid program. American Express Membership Rewards points convert to Matmid points at a 50:1 ratio (in other words, 1,000 Membership Rewards points convert into 20 Matmid points)

EL-AL-Amex

How much does EL AL charge for award tickets? Roundtrip tickets cost the following amounts:

  • Boston, New York, or Toronto to Tel Aviv costs:
    • 4,500 points in business class (225,000 Amex points)
    • 7,000 points in first class (350,000 Amex points)
  • Los Angeles to Tel Aviv costs:
    • 5,000 points in business class (250,000 Amex points)
    • 7,500 points in first class (375,000 Amex points)

You can book a one-way for half the cost of a roundtrip, but that’s still a minimum of 112,500 points for business class, or 175,000 points for first class.

EL AL’s first & business class don’t look great

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone who has flown EL AL and loved it. It’s sort of the same way Americans feel about their global carriers, and the same way Indians feel about Air India.

In 2014 EL AL updated both their first and business class products.

This is their new business class:

El-Al-New-Business-Class

Meanwhile this is their new first class:

El-Al-New-First-Class

Yes, while other airlines were installing fully flat seats with direct aisle access in business class, this is what EL AL was installing instead.

Doesn’t look very exciting, especially at the price, eh?

Bottom line

I like to review airlines that have the potential to be a great use of miles, or otherwise have the potential to be a great deal on paid tickets. In the case of EL AL, their award tickets are kind of expensive, and I don’t recall ever seeing a cheap business class fare on them.

Add in the fact that I feel like I may have issues with taking pictures, and that makes me even more lukewarm about reviewing them.

If anyone knows of a better way to redeem miles on EL AL, or of any cheap paid business class fares they have published, I’d love to hear them.

But hey, if you guys would find an EL AL review especially interesting or useful, I’m certainly open to it.

Otherwise I’d probably get to Israel either using Air France FlyingBlue miles (since they count Israel as being in Europe), or combine it with a trip to Jordan, since Royal Jordanian flies from Tel Aviv to Amman.

What say you guys?

Comments

  1. I’d wondered why you hadn’t reviewed them – you raise some interesting points.

    I will say the Jerusalem may be the best place I’ve ever visited – just endless fascinating, and very sophisticated too. And oh the food – better than Paris for me. Maybe even better than Istanbul. I really hope you get to visit the city sometime soon.

  2. @lucky One big issue with flying El Al / visiting Israel is also that you will be barred entry and transit in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and many other countries.

  3. Krisflyer mies are also good good for business and first class travel here. Regarding picture taking, I don’t know what they would and wouldn’t allow, but at the airport you won’t want to take pictures until you get past security, that’s for sure.

  4. I’ll echo that Jerusalem is the most amazing city in the world if you’re the first bit into history. Israeli culture is very cool also because it’s a unique juxtaposition of a millennia-old religion and a decades-old country–and it’s done in a way that’s very different from it’s modern Middle Eastern neighbors. The people are also very fit (in general…obviously plenty of exceptions) due to compulsory military service. Food is great.

  5. @ Phize You won’t be barred transit. And in my experience Israel doesn’t stamp your passport, they give you a sticker which they take back when you leave.

  6. Visiting Israel doesn’t bar you from other countries if you don’t get your passport stamped. They (Israeli passport control) give you a separate piece of paper for the stamp upon request.

  7. I remember flying EL AL to Israel when I was a teenager (~15 years ago) and even back then, I remember security being extremely tight. I can only imagine how things are now, but I can see you running into issues taking pictures. I know you like to stay incognito to get the standard/unbiased service, so perhaps you could call ahead of time and talk to their PR department and let them know your plans on reviewing the airline and what their stance would be on photography. You wouldn’t necessarily have to let them know when it would take place.

  8. I was about to recommend the Air Canada flight via YYZ on their 787. With the discounted biz class fares that @Mark just posted above, I’d be all over that @Lucky. Best way to get to TLV. I paid twice that for earlier this summer.

  9. Lucky has two passports so even if they stamp one he can use the other for countries that would have an issue with Israel.

  10. While ElAL doesn’t have great J or F cabins or great paid fares, they’re an experience on their own. They don’t mind picture taking (at least when I’ve done it), but they do racially profile both on the ground and in the air. Once they deem you safe, they don’t mind you taking pictures. If they haven’t “cleared” you in their minds yet they could be stricter.

    Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, is really a special place. There’s a reason it’s been the center of many world conflicts for the last 5000+ years. Tel Aviv isn’t that special. It’s a nice large city near the beach, but lacks much of the culture Jerusalem offers. Plus Jerusalem has a gorgeous Waldorf Astoria in a prime location. The Ritz Carlon in Hertzalia is also a great hotel but not exactly in the center of things. I just hope that if you do make it there you’ll spend some time exploring the city and not just make the trip about reviewing the flights.

    Even if you don’t get to TLV on ElAl, you may want to consider other options besides RJ and FB. BA and LX have good J options while LH, TK, RJ and most others don’t.

  11. Ben-cant you just ask for permission? I would think as long as you agree to avoid areas they don’t want photographed it may be ok. I honestly don’t know & I support what they do. I am not Jewish & have never been there although I would like to visit for the history, the people etc

  12. Hi Lucky,
    I can attest to two things:
    Photos: When I flew with them a few times in the early 2000s, no one had any problem with taking photos, including in the cockpit pre-departure and post-departure (traveled a couple of times with children). Like in any airline, some FAs can be sticklers and say something, but as long as you don’t pull a DYKWYA, no one would care.
    Matmid: This FF program just sucks. One of the reasons I stopped flying LY is because they their relationship with A stopped. I’m not quite sure, but I think that there may be some sort of relationship with Singapore, South African and AeroMexico. Not the best options, of course.

    About the person who said that you wouldn’t be able to go to Arab/Muslim countries after visiting Israel – AFAIK, your passport doesn’t get stamped when entering Israel, you’ll just get a piece of paper with your personal details on it. Kind of similar to what happens when you go to Cuba, so I heard.

    I hope that you decide to go and enjoy Israel! If you need any advice about what to do there or how to go about logistics like transportation, just shoot me an email!

  13. I traveled to Israel recently and both Malc & beachfan are correct: Israel DOES NOT stamp your passport. You’ll receive a separate entry document (small piece of paper with your photo) which you will keep with your passport while you are in Israel. Once you leave, they will give you an exit document (same size, but different color).

    One note: Since you have traveled to countries which have Islamic heritage, and those stamps are in your passport, you will most likely undergo extensive security scrutiny (before you reach the check-in counter) as you’re leaving North America AND as even moreso as you’re leaving Israel to return to the U.S. I know this firsthand: The pre-check-in counter security detail in Tel Aviv nearly had a fit since my passport had 2 stamps showing entry to Malaysia. Honestly, their reaction was a bit much and over-the-top. I was LEAVING Israel! If it were such an issue, then why didn’t Israel’s passport control make an issue about this upon my arrival? Ridiculous.

  14. You could do a trip to Bombay to Tel Aviv, though they seem to fly 767s on the route, hence might have an inferior product as well.

  15. You won’t be barred from entering any other countries. Israel is no longer putting entry stamps in your passport. You get a small entry/exit card.

    Their security is amazing but also very efficient. It starts even before you enter the airport. I wouldn’t try and be “smart” with them. These guys are professional — this is not TSA.

  16. Since you seem to be able to book El Al flights on AA.com, and they seem to be AA codeshare flights, would you not earn AAdvantage EQM and RDM as you would on an an AA flight?

  17. According to google flights, the fares out of YYZ are pretty decent ($1500ish) however, those flights are on 767s which look very outdated. However, the fares from TLV are more than twice that (3500ish).

  18. People like flying JFK-FRA-TLV on SQ F/LH narrow body garbage, or EY/EK F via AMM. AF F unattainable for the masses, of course, as is LX. DL J and UA J are the usual meh cabins. The AC Streamliner is actually a very solid choice. LY is a solid choice, but no sweet spots and not a great cabin (although they do have a solid crew and you’ll enjoy the King David lounge in TLV). I don’t think you’re missing anything major by not taking them (although I’d take LY direct over connecting Europe via a narrow body tube any day), but I certainly don’t think you’ll be uncomfortable if you do.

    LY and AA broke up for the same reason AA discontinued their TLV route; AA’s OW partners were threatening to leave.

  19. @Tom Jones You’re correct, they take people with lots of stamps from Muslim countries though heavy questioning, but I assume if Lucky explains it’s for work they may be easier. Also ElAl does background checks on passengers from the time you purchase the ticket. Once in the airport they have eyes on you at all times. They question you while waiting in line to check in, usually in a friendly way. In JFK they make you put all bags through x-ray machines before check in. They know how to do security and have a proven track record.

  20. Yeah visit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and please try to go to the occupied territories and get an idea how palestinians are treated,dont expect to be the first to board the plane and i advise you get a new passport cause with all your stamps of arab and muslim countries those paramoid security staff will be asking you question for hours, they can even access your phone and laptop,go into your e mails,private files,and your seat can be moved just because passenger next to you ask for it,did u hear about women being asked to change seats just because some overzealous religious traveller wont accept gender mix.

  21. FYI… I take picture at every airport I fly through. While at an international airport I was taking pictures around the check-in counters and happened to be near an El Al check-in counter. Needless to say I was immediately stopped and “interrogated” by counter staff to “why” I would be taking photos in the area. I explained that I do this at every airport (and had the photos on my phone of photos @ SFO earlier in the week) however that was not a valid answer and was told to delete all of the ones taken “near El Al check-in.” So take that for what its worth…

  22. I will say that I don’t care for EL AL products. Their security is tough. Not sure you will get any pictures from check-in until you board due to their security issues. Their security apparatus is worthy of an entirely separate article on its own and probably is already adequately covered by other airport related blogs.

    I flew to Tel Aviv in April on El Al via Boston in coach. Won’t happen again, although that has more to do with being in coach for more than 11 hours than El Al specifically. The biggest issue I have with El Al is their ridiculously long requirements for layovers. I flew from Cleveland, OH to Boston and waited 6 hours between planes. Of course with coach no lounge no fun. Price was reasonable about $1,200 round trip. El Al partners with Jet Blue to connect to different cities, IIRC, they only fly from Boston, New York, and Washington direct to Tel Aviv. The extended layover is ostensibly for their extra security. The coach product was nothing special in the giant middle of average compared to everyone else.

    I just returned from Israel on Wednesday evening (8/24) and this time I decided to go a different route. Since I mainly use my points and whatnot for trains and other transportation perks rather than planes, I usually shop for deals and are not airline specific. I usually only fly if I am going overseas or coast to coast. I was able to find a United Business First flight from Newark to Tel Aviv for $2,300 round trip. They operate two cabin service on 777-200 with the Business First being the pinnacle product. For the extra $1K it was worth it. No layovers, lounge access in Newark coming and going, and the service was excellent on board. Procedures to leave Israel run much smoother in the airport especially if you are already in the country and leaving.

    If I were to recommend a carrier for Israel I would go either United or Air France. If I have to connect with United I do it through Newark so if there are any hiccups I at the hub and its easier to deal with them. I didn’t realize that it was legal for an Arab airline to service Tel Aviv.

  23. Several comments.
    1. El Al is not competitive with other airlines in terms of its first class, seat, lounges, etc.
    2. Security is very tight at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.
    3. If you have stamps from “Islam” countries in your passport, expect to be grilled to the third degree at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. I was grilled for 3 hours, and stripped to my underwear, because I had stamps from Lebanon, Syria, and other neighboring countries in my passport. The airport security seriously told me that they could not believe that anybody would want to visit “Islamic” countries.
    4. If you go, don’t let Israel stamp your passport, as many “Islamic” countries will forbid you entry. Israel authorities will stamp a separate piece of paper.
    5. Despite all these issues, I’ve been twice to Israel. Jerusalem truly is a fascinating place and the country has so much history and interesting things to see.

  24. I was there in 2010 and they did stamp my passport. Sounds like it is different now. I flew El Al from TLV-CDG and paid for exit row in coach. Someone tried to come up and sit beside me and the FA made them go back to their coach seat. They only let people who paid for those seats to have them.

    I would reach out to the airline privately with your concerns/questions to see if they would allow you to take your pictures. Worst they will say is no.

    The security to and from TLV is unlike anything you’ve probably ever experience before. I had an exit interview when leaving TLV before the check in process and before security. They opened my suitcase and went through everything, even opening wrapped presents. I want to say my exit interview lasted about 30-40 minutes.

    Israel by far and away is my favorite destination I’ve ever been to. The culture, food and people are amazing. There is nothing in any other part of the world that can match the historical significance of Israel, Jerusalem in particular. I say that and I’m not a religious person. There’s a lot to say about the conflict in the region. You’ll find going in and out of regular places will have enhanced security screening. Just keep your head on a swivel when you are out and about.

  25. @mohamed

    Troll.

    I would suggest anyone who’s traveling to Israel to got to Judea and Samaria, just to see how WELL the people that live there are treated. Enough with the propaganda.

    And about having a security officer going through your phone, etc.? Happens to me every 3rd time when I try to enter the US. This is the one and only place that authorities have the right to go over your details without a warrant. No country is required to allow everyone in the world to enter its borders. It’s called security.

  26. I must confess that it seems silly that you’re worrying about not-so-good award redemption rates on El Al when the purpose of your blog is to inform your readers about different premium classes on global airlines. Yes, the awards require more points than others…but the point here is that you’re supposed to be the guy reviewing those awards to let the rest of us know if they’re worth it!

    As you said, yourself, El Al is one of the most requested reviews you have not yet done. You’re going to Israel this year. You blew it by not reviewing El Al before 2014 when you could have used fewer AA miles. Now you have no choice but to fly El Al in business (or first, so we get the true picture, I’d say) at least one way. Face it: it’s not like the redemption levels for El Al are ever going to get better!

    Suck it up. Fly to Israel in First. Fly back in Business. Review and compare/contrast. And then you can call it a day. Either way, you get to enjoy a wonderful time in Israel.

  27. Lived in Israel for four years between 99-03. Flew El Al only twice on their 747s between BOM and TLV in biz class, which wasn’t anything to talk about and neither was the catering. The crew however were very friendly. Our preferred forms of travel were on RJ or AI to go east and AF to go west.

    As far as a review is concerned, let me know, and I will help you out. The head of Ben Gurion Airport Mgmt and Security is literally a family friend and our former landlord whose home we rented during our stay in Israel. His brother (twin) is the head of El Al’s ground services. They come and stay with my family each year and vice-versa. The security at Ben Gurion is strict, but not a hassle.

    Finally, Israeli authorities do not stamp your passport. They provide a card which acts as a surrogate to a visa stamp. Just don’t lose it. You will have to return that card upon departure from the state. An alternative (and frankly my preferred method) is to have multiple passports.

  28. Israel is a facinating country. Both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are great. I’d travel in on Etihad and Royal Jordanian.

    Just to clarify, they still do stamp passports at some land borders. Earlier this year, I flew Etihad into Amman for a quick pass through Petra and the Red Sea before crossing the border at Eilat. I meant to ask for a slip, but was a little frazzled from the questioning and forgot to ask. I now have a cool Israel stamp in my passport. Not the biggest deal for me, but now I’ll need to wait a few years until I can visit Lebanon. 🙁

  29. Clint has a good point. I should clarify that the Israeli immigration may sometimes stamp your passport unless you ask them not to (happens quite frequently). So be sure to make that request be clear.

    @Clint – thanks for pointing that out.

  30. Lucky, just as I am sure you wouldn’t have flown on a South African airline at the height of the apartheid era, I hope you won’t fly El Al, or any other airline to Israel as long as the occupation of the West Bank and the seige of Gaza continue.

    JamesP may blind to it but Israel’s version of apartheid is particularly pernicious and there is no end in sight so until then: Boycott, Divest, Sanction!

  31. Think you should Fly ElAL one way and consider the new UA 789 from SFO the other way. Or you could connect in Europe(or even Moscow).BA IB and LX offer widebodies the whole way through. ElAl won’t compete in soft/hard product, but good for the blog to A) test as many new products as possible b) as mentioned, security is tight so you will have stories unless you sort it all out with the airline prior. Half jokingly, you can generate at least 5 good posts on the experience, im sure. They are a very reliable airline and take their jobs very seriously, so as long as your respectful of that(which you always are), you shouldn’t get into too much trouble. Israel is truly fascinating and visiting will be 180 degrees different then what you hear/see on the news.

  32. I remeber to read once a flight report of a brazilian blogger at EL AL. He took photos but he identified himself to the crew. Of course he didn’t take pics of the airport.

    PS: Be aware about the stamp issue, the thing is real!

    PS 2: maybe for 2017, really wanna heard your opinion about Latam. And Rio/São Paulo airports, changed from horrible to good since 2014. Even the once awful Smiles VIP Lounge is brand new and decent 😉

  33. 1. No idea why everyone keeps posting the YYZ fare. That only gets you on on LY’s 739 from AMS-TLV.

    2. Your numbers for award requirements are off. You should be looking at the Executive award chart as you get executive status within a day of making a transfer of at least 5K MR points to Matmid. That status lasts for a year.

    3. There are often promotions to make award even less than that. In fact there’s one right now:
    http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/94099

    4. You’ll need at the least 8 days to cover to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Masada, Safed, Caesarea, and the Golan Heights.
    You’ll need more than that if you also want to go to the West Bank/Gaza or to Eilat/Petra.

    5. I’ve flown to Israel in J on CO, DL, LH, LX, SN, UA, and US. I’ve never been very tempted to fly LY. Perhaps when they get their 787 order I will. If you do go try to go J one-way and F the other way to finally provide some insight into whether it’s worth it 🙂

    6. Keep an open mind and you’ll find amazing history and discover the only Middle Eastern country where LBGT, Arabs, Christians, and Jews all live freely.

    7. Feel free to email me for travel tips when you go. Nesiah tova!

  34. Oh, and as long as you tell the crew that you’re a blogger you shouldn’t have any issues with pictures. There are several TRs with lots of pics out there.

  35. You could review both Air Serbia and Azerbaijan airlines on your trip to Israel as both connect Ben Gurion Airport with New York via Belgrade and Baku respectively.

  36. Regarding stamps from Islamic countries… Honestly, most places will be circumspect if you had Syria, Iran, or Iraq on your passport nowadays and Lebanon (maybe less so, but yes, still). I haven’t read all your TRs, Lucky, but plenty of passengers with stamps from DOH, AUH, DXB, AMM and IST transit TLV.

    Heck, I got SSSS on my passport after coming back from Tel Aviv.

  37. How about flying business class out of London Luton Airport? For example, you could leave on October 7th & return on October 15th for £940.16 (~$1,250).

  38. Luckys concerns about photos are a cop out. There are tons of LY trip reports everywhere. Israel is an amazing place, I visit at least twice each year and have done the full array of routing options. AC is my favorite with LX as a close second since you can get a flat bed the entire journey, but the times aren’t great.

    Phil and Mohamed are anti-Israel, perhaps anti-Semitic trolls. Go there and talk to the people, learn, discover and embrace the rich culture. Don’t listen to the BDS haters.

  39. @ Josh G — It’s a cop out?! It’s a legitimate concern. I get told not to take pictures sometimes on other airlines, so it’s a legitimate concern with EL AL. I’m not saying I won’t fly them, but rather that it’s one of the reasons I haven’t until now.

  40. I am an Israeli and I was a Platinum FF at ELAL for 10 years and decided to stop flying altogether with ELAL due to their awful C and F hard products.
    The only thing ELAL are very good at in my opinion is their on board service at C and of course in F. So if you do fly try to go for their F product (not for the seat is is awful but for the service).
    Hope you enjoy.
    Yoav

  41. While for long-haul flights El-Al itself and it’s frequent flyer program is not competitive in any shape or form (one shape actually – You can redeem your points on their low-cost brand “Up” which serves 5 destinations in Europe for dirt cheap), you shouldn’t have any issues taking pictures as long as you’re not taking photos of the security screening process itself. Regardless of El-Al, in Ben-Gurion airport you can take pictures everywhere but at the security gates and the terminal walk-in gates.

    To my view, despite I haven’t flown El-Al for a few years, their soft product is better then the legacy U.S carrier and their regional product (to Europe and back) is competitive with most European carriers, especially in business class where you actually get a business class seat.

  42. Then explain why there are hundreds of TRs and pics of LY across social media and online?

    What are you worried they’ll do? Ask that cease photographing, ask about your motivation to take pictures? I mean seriously get real.

  43. Hey Lucky,
    The points you raise are totally legitimate. It is because of their onboard product that the last time I flew to Israel I flew Air France. However, in terms of security, just be honest. If they ask, don’t try to evade the question. You will probably leave Israel feeling safer than you’ve ever felt, because these people honestly know how to do their jobs.

    Echoing what some other people have said, please don’t just do a day in Tel Aviv!! Jerusalem is a must, and you really need more than just a few days to really see the city.
    Even if you don’t end up flying El Al, make sure to make it to Israel!

  44. @ Josh G — We must be talking about different airlines. Can you show me maybe a handful of these hundreds of trip reports? Because I haven’t been able to find many thorough trip reports of their product. Taking a one off picture and posting it on social media is very different what I do. I take hundreds of pictures when I take a flight.

  45. I am writing you from Jerusalem…first time here in 30 years. Flew United from Newark in business/first and the service and food were very good. Going back on Austrian Airlines business. Ill let you know.
    Amazing city and country. Dont let the trolls bother you.

  46. @ Lucky:

    You write that AA and El Al ended their partnership. That’s no longer true – there are AA codeshares on El Al flights from many European cities to Tel Aviv, including LHR, BCN, CDG, FRA and others. I flew AA-coded El Al-operated flights between LHR and TLV just a few weeks ago. You have to book them in connection with a AA flight from the US. So you can’t earn AA miles on an El Al flight between the US and Israel, but you can earn AA miles on El Al flights between Europe and TLV, if connecting in Europe.

    And of course it’s worth noting that the security process is the same for all passengers departing Tel Aviv – no matter what airline you are on.

  47. I don’t understand the angst about the possibility you *might* have difficulty taking photos. Sure it’s better to have some pics than not, but worst case you get on the plane and they don’t let you photograph. So what? You’ll still write all about it I presume – better than nothing!

  48. What is that nonsense about taking pictures? I’m Israeli and have flown many times with El Al. I’ve always taken pictures. On the flight to LA I took a selfie right when a flight attendant passed by and she asked if I wanted her to take my picture. There’s absolutely no problem taking pics on board. Plus, the flight attendants are always, always very nice and polite (just don’t expect Israelis to be the same ;p)

  49. @Lucky
    While I can’t speak for photos onboard (though I wouldn’t imagine it to be a problem), I can confirm that at TLV they’re VERY strict about photos. If a staff member notices you taking one then they will come over and ask that you delete it. In practice I find that it’s ok if you’re subtle and don’t take any photos near to sensitive (security) areas, just be careful of flash.

    You may or may not be aware that BA has a full lie-flat business and first class service on their LHR-TLV route that they time to connect with flights through JFK. It’s actually their shortest longhaul-configured route.

    I can’t recommend Israel enough for a visit. What I should say though is that although there are some incredible hotels in Israel (looks up the beresheet mitzpe ramon for an example), Israel has quite a developed domestic tourism industry already to the point that there’s not a great selection from the big international chains. The couple of stays in sheratons and hiltons that I’ve had in Israel have not been especially pleasant, so I’d say maintaining loyalty to one of the ‘big four’ could be a little hard.

    Anyway, greatly looking forward to the trip report!

  50. Lucky still sounds like your hiding something!!!!!! As for jewland my friend went never again , its a hole period full of excrement.

  51. I live in Israel and I prefer to travel with other airlines (main *A-United and SWISS) then El Al. El Al is not as bad as you think, yes- their long haul fleet (763, 744, 772) is old (the short haul fleet is fine), old IFE and not very fancy premium classes, but I personally feel there like flying with warm service and a nice crew. Also, there are only 3 lounges in TLV, 2 poor Dan lounges and El Al’s king david lounge. All the airlines have access to the Dan lounge and only El Al premium passengers (and also UP Smart) have access to the King david lounge which is much nicer then Dan.
    Also, El Al have a special check in zone for premium passengers while other airlines have just dedicated counters at the general check in zone.
    I think the best way to reach Israel from New York is flying United directly twice a day, or SWISS with a connection in Zurich (because there is also A330/340 on ZRH-TLV route most of the times and sometimes *A get’s an upgrade to first class seating on the zrh-tlv segment becuase there is not first service in this route). Just make sure don’t take the ZRH-TLV code share operated by El Al. I usually like to combine swiss and united, fly one way to new york directly and return from other city in the US with Swiss.
    Fast track security is available in TLV for Business and first class passengers.
    At TLV you can take pics anywhere mainly, just not in the Hand luggage security check.
    If you like to record the take off or landing, it can be a problem at all airlines because Israel still require to turn off any electronic device while take off or landing for any flight depart or landing in TLV.
    Ok, for the end- I recommend to fly El Al once, maybe you will like it, idk. Newark is better (772 most of the times). at TLV EL AL’s premium passengers “enjoy” more because of the special check in zone (or print your boarding pass and baggage tag at the kiosk) and a much better lounge.

    Have a nice flight! Update when you are in Israel 😉

  52. Lucky,

    I really hope you get here (I am studying in Jerusalem for a year) and I’d be happy to bring you out to Videopub or Jerusalem Open House!

    My routing to get here was fascinating, I used 70,000 delta skymiles to fly Delta JFK-SVO and then Aeroflot SVO-TLV all in J.

    I’ve flown El Al before, and it’s definitely an experience, though I’m not sure if a friend could recommend using that many points for it to another friend!

    Enjoy your travels, and I hope you get to visit Israel!

    Sam S.

  53. boycott the illegal apartheid state of Israel , why spend money there but your money so not for me to say, but I always encourage people to boycott Israel Jews Israelis as a whole …

  54. Alas, what a loss when AA severed its Aadvantage awards with ELAL and as a AA loyalist I could no longer fly non-stop to Tel Aviv. Why is the NYC>TLV route profitable for UA and DL and not AA, of the legacy carriers only AA has no non-stops from anywhere to TLV

  55. Beautiful country with gorgeous people, sophisticated technology, industry, & infrastructure, historic sites and awesome food.

    I can say the same for the countries surrounding Israel with the exception for the sophisticated infrastructure and technology.

    Go there to visit regardless of whether you write a trip report or not.

  56. El al won’t give you any problems taking pictures. I have done it before without issue. Tel Aviv airport is pretty vanilla and the lounges are pretty lame.
    Never flown el al in first hut I’ve flown them in business. The seat is awful, service is hit or miss but the food and wine are good.

  57. Is the anti semitic/occupation comments necessary? This is strictly a travel blog, seriously just go away. In regards to elal i flew first class and it isnt up to par but definitely visit israel there is no country like it. As far as taking pictures etc they shouldnt bother you. Show them you have followers etc they will understand. Would love to read your review!

  58. I flew El Al into Israel about 4 years ago. The curious thing is that the security procedures leaving Israel are more thorough and time consuming than traveling there. I’m not sure this is intentional – just different locations doing different stuff. They have a dedicated security wing at Heathrow. Was grilled on reason for visit, who I was meeting, etc – all expected and well prepared for. Had a day flight so avoided those rather medical looking beds. No trace in my passport – they add a stick on page to your passport for the duration. I doubt they would let me in these days for views I express elsewhere 😉 That left unsaid, I was impressed by a very fit and disciplined society – quite a contrast to UK.

  59. I had no problem with pictures at TLV last year, provided it wasn’t happening in or near the security checkpoints (of which there are many). But I didn’t fly El Al, so I’m not sure about pictures on the plane.

    In terms of alternatives to El Al, I am a sucker for Turkish, as I have had consistently good experiences with them. And if you fly through SAW instead of IST, you get a much more intimate experience in transit, which I always enjoy.

    Being from Canada myself, I am biased to agree with the poster above who suggested AC through YYZ. If you can get past the food, I think the 787s have an excellent Business Class product, and if you specifically want to long-haul into TLV, might be a good choice. There is a huge Israeli immigrant population in Toronto and from what I’ve heard the AC service to TLV is many of their preferred choice when returning home.

    One note about departing TLV…when they say arrive at the airport 3 hours before your flight, they mean 3 full hours. There are so many security checkpoints, that if you are deemed high risk for any reason (which could be completely arbitrary or profiled as others have mentioned above), your security check could take up that entire time, and the officers don’t care if you make your flight. You will absolutely be deemed high risk if you have ever visited or are planning to visit an Arab country (including North Africa), if you or a travel country looks like he or she is of Arab descent, if you are a young, single male travelling alone, if you have a weird itinerary that doesn’t follow a logical flight path (lots of bouncing around), you buy or redeem the ticket last minute or a host of other factors. The officers are given absolute discretion to act according to their training, and once they deem you high risk you are going through the gamut of checks. I unfortunately last year fit all of the risk factors so I was under particularly high scrutiny. The upside of all this is that the airside hub has some of the best airport shopping I have seen, so if you do clear security quickly, there is lots to see and do. It’s also one of the few airports that doesn’t mark up much of their product like others do, so lots of guides and articles recommend saving all souvenir and “touristy” shopping for the airport, because it is often cheaper than at the actual historical site.

  60. Even if you are the first to board, you won’t be the first on that plane. On every LY flight, there’s (at least) 2 security officers travelling. The company I work for handles LY flights on the ground (not particulary happy with that, but ho hum) and they will not take kindly to pictures.
    They often lock up (yes, take this literally) passengers from their flights in a separate room if they are not Jewish.
    How this airline is still flying without a several lawsuits is beyond my comprehension.
    The crew is unfriendly, not to speak of your co-passengers. El Al is notorious for having a lot of wealthy and stuck up pax. Please, there’s a better use for your money and/or miles than this kind of company.

  61. Reach out to El Al’s media relations team. They’ll make it all work.

    If you’re bored and want to try new airlines, how about some reviews on EasyJet, RyanAir, and Spirit? I’d ask for a review of Allegiant, but I don’t expect anyone to put their lives at risk.

  62. “I would suggest anyone who’s traveling to Israel to got to Judea and Samaria, just to see how WELL the people that live there are treated. Enough with the propaganda.”

    You mean the West Bank? Which was supposed to go the Palestinians but which Israel still occupies 60% of, leaving the Palestinians to have to navigate through countless time-consuming checkpoints just to visit other towns within the West Bank? Yeah, I guess if you’re an Israeli settler, life in the West Bank is fabulous.

    “Keep an open mind and you’ll find amazing history and discover the only Middle Eastern country where LBGT, Arabs, Christians, and Jews all live freely.”

    I guess if you keep selling that myth long enough, people in the Western world will start to believe it.

  63. Stay away from Israel! Boycott the country that illegally punishes Palestinian citizens. If only an airport in Palestine could reopen life would be a dream.

  64. I had the opportunity to fly woth ELAL on seceral occasions before, I always takes pictures onboard the plane and before, last time I took ELAL flight, the only thing I was told was not to take pictures of the crew.
    On my recent visit to Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) on August the 2nd, I took about 200 pictures and the only thing I was told by security was not to take pictures of the staff, and this was before security, even before check in.
    As an Israeli I had many opportunities to fly from tlv airport and I always takes a lot of photos and I never have any problems with it whatsoever.
    Although ELAL isnt the best airlines (I do as much as possible to avoid flying with them) they do offer an opportunity to feel and experience the Israeli peoples and gives you a taste of what you will experience while in Israel.

  65. Lucky, here’s all the information you need from an Israeli who has flown El Al countless times and who visits TLV regularly:
    1. You can certainly take pictures on board. I’ve taken hundreds of them without any interruptions. Mind you, given the hard product is nothing to write home about (pun intended) – those pictures would not look as great as the rest of the ones you regularly take. 🙂
    2. The seats, the food, and to some extent – the service – would feel rather meh, for sure.
    3. TLV security is top-notch (although some folks claim it’s “over the top”). However, since numerous airports around the world have adopted similar security measures after 9/11 – there’s not a real issue here. You are NOT allowed to take pictures during the security screening, though – for obvious reasons.
    4. If you decide to visit during the high-season (mostly summer and holidays), make sure to arrive to TLV 3 hours before the flight departs, as the security process can be time-consuming.
    5. Foreign visitors do not get a stamp in their passport, as some Arab and Muslim countries consider everyone who visits Israel to be a “Jewish spy”.
    You’d get a stamp on a separate note, which you have to return upon departure. Your passport will not have any indication at all that you visited Israel.
    6. TLV is a very functional airport, everything is nearby and there are no endless corridors. Duty free shops, however, are VERY expensive. There are fast lanes for business and first class passengers.
    7. Lounges – the regular lounge for business and first class not flying El Al is Dan lounge, which is an absolute joke.
    El Al has a cute Business class lounge (and a cuter first class one) called King David lounge, which is totally acceptable.
    8. As for Israel – the best time to visit would be either in the spring (April-June) or in the fall (September-November). Summers are too hot for comfort and winters are somehow wet and boring. 🙂 I’m certain you’d love it.
    peace, out. 🙂

  66. Your commentary on photo taking reminded me of my flights into the USSR back in it’s day of glory..
    No pictures were permitted at the airfields, aircraft or transit points…
    Being an avid pictorial recorder of my journeys, I improvised… carrying my venerable Nikon F which made the loudest firing ‘click’ ever…I would improvise with a ‘coughing jag’ while taking pictures of Moscow and Leningrad aero ports and aircraft. Back then, no one neither noticed nor complained, as the stoic atmosphere was the norm…

  67. @Lucky – Israel is a wonderful country – definitely worth visiting and living in as my family and I did for a long time. It is a country whose portrayal in the media is too skewed to the extremes. This is coming from a fellow American who spent a long time living there and visiting often. (cough – I also lived in Syria and Damascus was my favorite city to visit and live in for a long time; alas, Syria is not recommended to visit anytime in the near term). Incidentally, I find the citizens from both countries to be very tolerant of different religions. Israel is definitely much more tolerant of the LGBT community than its neighbors.

  68. “They often lock up (yes, take this literally) passengers from their flights in a separate room if they are not Jewish” – that is a complete and utter lie!

  69. Zvi, Josef, no it is not. How would you know?
    I work on the ground for several LY flights a week and they do that. Not sure where you got the info that they don’t, rest assured they do.
    I have never seen a Jewish passenger in the closed off area. The people who have to wait there, are actually escorted to the gate by several LY security officers as the last pax to board. They are not allowed to leave that designated area until LY staff is ready to go with them to the gate.
    It doesn’t mean because you haven’t experienced it, it doesn’t happen.

  70. If you ever take this trip to the apartheid state… Please visit the occupied West Bank so you can see how “freely” the Palestinians live… Better yet, visit at least one of the many refugee camps scattered through the West Bank where descendants of Palestinians used to live in “Isreal” call home…

    P.S Not a troll… Or anti Semite, just Anti Zionist policies…

  71. Come on people. You could be sitting in a restaurant in Israel and be blown up. You could be riding on a bus and be blown up. Any where any place you could be killed. From the pictures I’ve seen the whole place is the color of sand. Decade after decade the Israelis live in constant peril due to their religion. They should all pack up and move to the middle of the Nevada desert which probably looks much like Israel. Then level everything they built, pave it over and leave it to the psychopathic Moslems.

  72. @Lucky – your post made me yearn to revisit the Holy Land so I just booked some tix on AC biz! You should come along!

  73. @EBBR
    I travel to Israel frequently (> 10 times a year) and I am not Jewish. I never experienced this treatment and neither have my friends and colleagues, none of whom are Jewish.

  74. @Dan Palangio, I didn’t say they do it to all non-Jewish pax, but nevertheless, they do it.
    Any airline treating pax like that (no matter if it’s an Israeli, Arabic, European, or whatever airline) is a disgrace. Yes, you can have security and profiling (it is very needed), but treating people like that is a disgrace. I will be the first to acknowledge the necessity of proper screening and thorough profile checks, but not to such an extent where one is put in a separate room waiting to be escorted to the gate.

  75. @EBBR Would you care to share more details such as which company you work for, where you are located which airport this is at, how often it happens. You are making a big claim without substantiating it at all. Obviously there is a limit the amount of substantiation you could bring on this blog post but you’re going to have to give a little more information than that.

  76. Al, no problem. I can not call, for obvious reasons, the company I work for by name. But we are a ground service company at BRU. It happens a few times a week. The passengers that are separated are both local pax as transit pax. And depending on your “profile”, they will or will not go through every single piece that is in your luggage, sniff you for explosives and drugs and escort you to the gate all the way down to your seat. In their “transfer room” (that’s what they call the area where they keep those pax) they are even allowed to strip you down to your undies. But in all fairness, I have no knowledge of that happening since I work there, but it has happened in the past, according to a (very) senior colleague.

  77. @EBBR

    So the government of Belgium is providing complete jurisdiction to El Al to perform actives which violate the laws on human freedom of movement and civil liberties in the sovereignty of Belgium?

    Sounds suspicious at the least if the extent of what you describe is true. However, how is this different from travel to and from the US for foreign citizens, especially those from unstable States?

  78. @Kent
    Yes they are. Believe what you will, I know what I see on a nearly daily basis. If you’re not satisfied with that, fine by me.
    LY security staff are also the only ones who can go airside without ANY security checks whatsoever. Just flash their airport badge and they are through. They get pretty much carte blanche in and around the airport. Just to give you an example: Every single time an LY plane touches down and takes off, LY demands the plane being escorted by both the Federal police and firetrucks. Not available? No problem, they’ll make a delay for it. They do whatever they want. And they know they can.

    I travel to the US very often and never had any experience even remotely close (or any other country). There is a very important difference between government immigration and customs checks and intruding examinations by airline staff.

    LY does this for the sake of security. However, every single person that ends up in that “transfer room” has already been through several layers of screening (both by LY and the airport itself) and a profiling check. As long as you tell someone it’s a security measure, I guess nobody questions the practices.
    I will be the last person to question security measures since my colleagues and I saw the horror of the airport bombing ourselves (we have lost several colleagues fyi). BUT what LY is doing in that transfer room has nothing to do with security. If someone would impose these measures to Jewish pax, they would be sued and be called anti-semitic. There is having tight security and being paranoid. Not quite the same thing.

  79. Simply don’t bother. As an Israeli (living in Asia) I always rather fly back home via Moscow instead of a direct BKK-TLV or HKG-TLV flights. Their business class product is just out-dated, service is terrible (why would it be when the FA’s are students studying accounting, law etc. and think you owe them the world?), food is so and so (hey always a pita and hummus, even in biz) and the prices are twice as much (I pay HAN-TLV with SU in J $2199 while paying $4299 HAN-TLV on LY (via BKK)).

    The reason El Al isn’t updating its products is (and this is official) – ‘We are expecting the delivery of our 787’s, hence we decided to NOT invest in upgrading our current products’ ??????????

    So overall I wouldn’t bother spending so much points (or money) for a very low standard product and low standard service, with OLD planes (old 744 and a not well maintained 772).

    My 2 cents.

  80. I have no problem using my Qantas points to get seats on LY except in peak periods.

    If you do visit, I would suggest avoiding Friday/Saturday as Jerusalem is pretty dead as are most restaurants in Tel Aviv.

    If you do get to Jerusalem then the only place to stay is the Waldorf Astoria – a gorgeous restoration.
    In Tel Aviv, I would avoid the chain hotels but go for the Norman or an Atlas hotel like the Shalom or Hotel 65 which opens soon. I have stayed at every beachside hotel and ended up the last few times at the Shalom.
    For great coffee (I know you like good coffee) try Cafelix.

    It is disappointing that people feel the need to vent their anti-Semitism under the guise of concern for the Palestinian cause. I didn’t notice any comments from the same people regarding Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey etc regarding their treatment of LGBT, women, people with anti-government views or even foreign workers.
    Many LGBT Palestinians have sought (and been granted) asylum in Israel, including recently a well known Iranian poet and playwright.

  81. Again, what EBBR is saying (over and over again) is simply incorrect (notice all of a sudden it’s become “not all Jews”).
    Passengers are NOT isolated due to their religion nor their nationality.
    Every passenger (Israeli or otherwise) who’s passport includes stamps from hostile countries (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other members of the Human Rights council in the UN) – especially in recent time – will be thoroughly questioned (notice – NOT interrogated), their luggage will be sniffed and thoroughly checked and they will have to explain what they were doing in those hostile countries and how come they chose to visit Israel.
    I was once asked to get into this so-called “transfer room” because my luggage contained a “suspicious powder”. Yes, I was asked what it was (it was talcum powder I used to keep my walking shoes fresh, mind you), why did I fly to BRU from HKG heading back home to TLV (used points for the HKG-BRU lag and a paid ticket for the BRU-TLV one) and other questions regarding my whereabouts in Asia.
    The people who “took my dignity and treated me like a POW (according to EBBR)” were local BRU officers working with El Al. They had no indication as to which religion nor nationality I belong (I didn’t use my Israeli passport).
    It’s one thing to say El Al isn’t such a great company (and that’s putting it mildly – and I totally agree with that), but to somehow suggest El Al does certain things to individuals based only on their nationality or religion is either a lie or just being plain (and airplane) ignorant.

  82. @Zvi – I can testify to EBBR’s observations. He is correct in that while it doesn’t happen to all people of a “non-Jewish” faith (in fact I don’t think it has anything to do with one’s religious affiliation), stories of invasive tertiary screening after the primary and secondary screening (involving baggage identification and interview – the interview is often conducted by non-security psychology students when in Israel) can be located. I have traveled to Israel more than 20 times and I have been forced to an invasive interrogation that EBBR refers to on my 17th trip in 2013 when flying from Toronto on El Al. I was indeed asked kindly to go through a thorough screening. Now, considering that I fly all over the world (often to war-torn areas) for reporting and journalism, I can understand the scrutiny I may face. However, considering I own a press correspondence identification, I still found that surprising. I also have a colleague whose experience was covered by my friend in the Israeli media on her fourth trip to Israel (note I mentioned fourth): http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/american-professor-invited-to-israel-humiliated-by-el-al-security-personnel-1.322099

    Now – I do not have negative feelings against Israel. It’s a country which has a lot to offer and is full of genuinely kind people, many of whom are tired of the bloody affair in the Middle East.

    However, El Al’s security methods have been scrutinized frequently, including assessment of its effectiveness and harassment. Whereas El Al performs a thorough search of selected passengers, some airports (i.e. airports in India for instance) have incorporated contact searches along with metal detection as part of the security measure for all passengers including questioning by immigration. Having said that, I find the TSA’s random screening to be rather expected whereas I find El Al’s random screenings to be just that – random without any logical explanation.

    At the end of the day is a review of El Al worth it? No. Is a visit to Israel worth it? Yes.

  83. Zvi, I am not going to discuss this any further with you. You obviously are turning a blind eye to this. Again, it’s not because it isn’t happening to you it doesn’t happen at all.
    Yes, that transfer room also holds pax who need to undergo an additional bag screening (on top of the mandatory level 4 every passenger goes through on every flight).
    You have no clue about the ground operations LY runs and thus you are not in a position to question whether or not this practice happens or not. It does happen, take it from someone who sees this on a very frequent basis. End of discussion.

  84. As someone who flew LY J and F 4 times in the past 6 months I can tell you this.

    LY was always my last choice due to my experience with them years ago in Y. Very Israeli style…..

    However they surprised me. Service in J is arguably better than DL and UA who operate non-stop flights on the same route. Service in F is totally in line with other F carriers. I’ve flown all of them, well most of them… Of course some crews are better than others but over all experience in F is great and I always choose F over J if there is availability in P class. The hard product though is a different story. In J I would say it was not bad at all. Especially when I snag a seat on the upper deck. I’ve slept as comfortable as with DL and UA. However the hard product in F leaves a lot to be desired. For the most part I take F because of the soft product and also I love the privacy.

    Reg hotels, the Waldorf in Jerusalem is the way to go hands down!

    Feel free to email me for tips. If you are staying in the Waldorf let me know before… I know all of them there and i will let them know that you are coming…
    .

  85. EBBR – “…You have no clue about the ground operations LY runs…” – well, that, my friend, is where you’re wrong. I kinda do – and probably more than you.
    Yes, countries abroad are so “fond” of Israel (especially EU countries) that they would allow LY to “violate the laws on human freedom”. that is laughable, and obviously no human right is being violated.
    Take your politics elsewhere, please.

  86. Just to reiterate, since 2-3 years ago Israel no longer stamps passports upon entry/exit.
    You get a separate piece of paper with the stamp, and you can throw it away once you exit the country. In fact, YOU CAN’T EVEN ASK FOR A STAMP, they just stopped giving one all together!

  87. @Zvi – if someone asked me to remove my bra involuntarily, I would consider that a violation of my personal rights. I would be even more pissed off, if it were because of some “suspicious” reason. In fact, in that case, I would tell the airline I am simply not going to board and that they can remove my luggage regardless of future consequences. I genuinely sympathize with all who have to go through this garbage regularly in the name of national security without much to show for these actions.

  88. @Mike – actually you can at land crossings. I have a stamp in my passport from last year (a passport which was about to expire so I didn’t care).

  89. Samantha – I overheard a lady speaking about having to take off her bra and give it for inspection at Changi airport, after it was screened to have contained some sort of suspicious wire in it. There’s no El Al presence at Changi, so I know other airlines are doing it as well.
    Having said that – no, I do not think it’s not a reasonable request if something looks sus.
    Personally, I find the back-scatter scanners more offensive than having to remove a clothing item, whatever it might be. Seeing my personal scans on one of those machines literally made me blush.

  90. @Zvi, would you care to tell me how it comes you claim to know so much about it?
    I know because I’m Head of Ground Operations at BRU. So unless you’re employed directly by LY and have no clue what they actually do, I’d highly doubt you’d have any deeper knowledge than I do.

  91. “It is disappointing that people feel the need to vent their anti-Semitism under the guise of concern for the Palestinian cause”

    What utter bullsh*t, trotting out the antisemitism argument when people show any sympathy or concern for the Palestinians.

    Also, anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.

  92. EBBR: I thought you weren’t having this discussion anymore… .
    Regarding your question – I’ll tell you in person when I’m at BRU early next week.

  93. @Lucky

    I recoommend you’ll try a flight from Israel to Europe withe El Al, bussiness class is MUCH better then most eropeane airline especially AF.
    Security is a bir strict but oveall worth it.

  94. @Lucky regarding the visa issue, you can ask them to not stamp your passport and stamp a paper instead. In case you get an official who isn’t feeling the world is on their side that day and stamps your passport anyway, you have your German one and your American one right? Just pick one passport that you don’t mind getting the stamp in and use your other passport for the rest of your Middle East travel. Hope this helps!

  95. Border Control at airports ceased stamping all passports some time ago. You will be issued with a small blue slip of paper which has a digitalised picture of your passport photo on it. You need to keep this until you leave the country.

    If you have a biometric passport (most people do nowadays) you can use the biometric readers to your right in the Departure Border Control area; it will issue you with a pink departure slip. (Only Israeli passport holders can use the biometric readers on Arrival.)

  96. Hi Lucky.
    I just came across your site. I’ve flown El Al many times from both JFK and Newark. I have never had a problem taking pictures in the lounge or in the airplane in either the US or in Israel.(I will be more than happy to send you the pictures if you’d like)

    Usually I fly first business class because I have a chase saphire proffered card and I convert points into cash and then apply that to the business class ticket. This makes it affordable.

    I would be more than happy to discuss my experiences with you if you’d like which have been both good and bad

  97. Hi,

    Just wanted to offer you flying on Elal by Buying your Ticket on SWISS. They have codeshare flights.

    Frankly speaking, as I was more than 10 years a Gold member in Elal Matmid, I can tell u for sure,that lately, I am avoiding flying with them….

    Take care,

    Eli

  98. First of all, El Al is totally OK with pictures. The security is high-level, but is not that bad.
    If you do choose to fly them DON’T fly out of Toronto the flight out of there is operated by a spanish charter privilege style 777-300 er wit a spanish team if you want the true el al experience choose JFK or Boston.

  99. Just to keep this thread alive – Israel is a great place to visit, Jerusalem is amazing and I’m sure you’d love Tel-Aviv. However, I think El-Al, in its current very problematic stage, is too risky for a review. Perhaps things will change once they settle their labor problems and start receiving their new Dreamliners next year.
    My suggestion would be to use a trip to Israel to review SQ’s upcoming new A350s, which they’ve just announced they’re going to use to open their new line to TLV next summer (if they get their TLV slots approved).

  100. Do you want to know why they don’t let you take pictures? BECAUSE THEYR’E FUCKING SHIT, and they don’t want anyone saying anything on them. Most their planes are so fucking old (from like, the 80’s-70’s), probably didn’t change their airfilters in a while. I flew El Al many many times in my life. It pains me to walk on the pain because you can just smell the sickness. Smells disgusting. Most flight attendants are rude(Of course some can be nice, you can get lucky), the food. Holy crap, don’t get me started on the food. The food is SO bad. Don’t even eat it. Bring a snack from home. Especially the breakfast food. They give you this packaged old omelette, when you open it you immediately want to gag. And the legroom-There is none. Barely any legroom, but that’s quite standard for a regular passenger flight. Actually, THERE IS NO ROOM. I’m quite skinny and petite and when I sit I literally brush against the person next to me. Not even brush, more like we’re squeezed together. Also, worth mentioning- The passengers themselves are annoying. Not really the airlines fault but still. Be prepared because you might face some really horrible people. It probably won’t happen but there’s a high chance. And to sum it all up- Their companys customer service is horrible. No matter how long- AND I MEAN HOW LONG, you get held up, they will not give two shits. All they will do is MAYBE send you some flowers home, only if you’re very, very truly upset and demanding. No joke, I got held up in Singapore for like 13 hours. I literally didn’t know what was going on at all, didn’t know the language, me and all the other passengers were so utterly confused until they finally told us what to do (a couple of hours later). And then we got held up even longer. And yes, they did NOT care about that at all. This air line is so crappy it angers me.

  101. I have done 4 return trips with El Al in the last 6 weeks between Europe and Tel Aviv (777,747,737, 767) in economy as well as a number of long haul sectors on the 777 last year in both first and business.
    Except for 2 sectors, all the flights arrived on-time or early. One delay was due to heavy snow and the subsequent need for de-icing. The other delay was due to a problem closing the cargo door.
    The food on the flights to Europe and back was actually very good.

    Business and First was really poor. The seats are relics. The food was also pretty woeful.
    El Al is taking delivery of their first 787 this year and I assume did not want to invest in aircraft that will be replaced over the next year or two.

    Service on every flight was friendly and even on the Europe flights in economy the cabin crew came through the cabin to offer water after the meal service was over. Flight attendants were all very pleasant.
    ‘So pissed’, I have yet to eat an omelette on any airline. They all make me want to gag.
    As Dave correctly points out, El Al does not fly to Singapore. If you are going to troll at least get your facts straight and don’t get caught.

    I also flew 4 sectors in business on Swiss (2 long haul, 2 medium). All 4 sectors were delayed. One one sector the food was inedible. Service was great except for one witch.
    I flew 4 sectors on Emirates in first (2 long haul, 2 medium). Very good but 1 long haul arrival was 4 hours delayed and not well handled. Ground handling does not compare with TG or LH.
    I flew 4 sectors on Aeroflot in business (2 long haul, 2 medium). The food and service were a real surprise and were not worse than Emirates First.

  102. If you are not Jewish, don’t even consider flying El Al. My daughter flew on this airline. She was travelling with a group of students who were going to study abroad. She was subjected to one hour of interrogation by 4 different people, was asked about her parent’s ethnicity. After 1 hour of interrogation by 4 people, including the head of security, she was the ONLY ONE from her entire group, who was asked to remove her laptop and earphones from her backpack and be placed in her suitcase. I was standing 20 feet away and witness how everyone else was questioned for about 5 minutes, except her. This is truly a form of discrimination and racial profiling. Needless to say, she will not be flying with that airline on her return trip.

  103. JMV,
    I was flying El Al with my non-Jewish partner (I AM Jewish). I warned him that he would probably be interrogated at length and that I would wait for him immediately after Security.
    Ironically, not only was it I that was interrogated for quite a while but all of the contents of my suitcase were removed, placed in small baskets and X-rayed individually. Some items were then placed in a separate box and I was accompanied to bulky goods to check that box in separately.

    Once flying out of Brussels on American Airlines I was told at check-in that I had to report to a certain place for a ‘special check’. I was met and escorted (with another pax) to a secure area where I had to strip down to my underwear and again all the contents of my bags were removed, put in baskets and X-rayed individually.

    I also recently had to strip down to my underwear for a security check at Frankfurt Airport (I was flying Lufthansa).

    I am in my late 50’s, am not of ‘Middle Eastern appearance’ and travel frequently.
    Although checks like this are annoying, intrusive and time consuming I am happy to oblige and remain patient knowing that attention is being paid to security.
    Contrast this with my experience at security in the U.S. and Heathrow where often the person behind the screen at baggage X-ray is not even looking at the screen.

    JMV, in your position I would be pleased and grateful that El Al cares so much about your daughter’s and other pax security and happy that she arrived safely.

  104. Weve been flying El Al round trip NYC to TA twice a year for many years. Love it. Seats are flat. Food is good service is terrific.

    Temperpedic mattresses, lovely amenity kits and pjs. Kind and competent people.

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