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)
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.
This is their new business class:
Meanwhile this is their 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?
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?