It Pains Me To Redeem Miles For EL AL First Class…

As I wrote about yesterday, I just booked a trip for early next year that will have me flying EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, and Royal Brunei. I’m excited to try three new business class products, and am also excited to visit Jordan and Brunei for the first time.

The entire trip planning process isn’t yet done, because as of now the trip has me ending in Dubai on Royal Brunei, and I’d like to get back to the U.S. I’m trying to decide between several return options, though one that people keep bringing up is EL AL.

I’ve written a post in the past with three reasons that I haven’t yet reviewed EL AL, and the two main ones are that their mileage redemption rates are high and their first & business class product looks pretty lousy.

El-Al-747

Well, for my upcoming trip it looks like EL AL does have first class award availability from Tel Aviv to New York, Los Angeles, or London. While I’d love to review EL AL first class in theory, I just can’t get myself to do it… at least I don’t think.

Here’s what EL AL’s first class product looks like on the 747:

El-Al-First-Class-101

That looks disappointing for business class, let alone first class. Is there no privacy between seats?! Unfortunately the soft product doesn’t look much better. Their first class menu could just as easily be in business class.

Even worse, the award costs for first class are obscene. Here are the roundtrip costs in points:

el-al-award-costs

As you might expect, points don’t transfer 1:1 from Amex to EL AL Matmid. Rather they transfer at a 50:1 ratio.

EL-AL-Amex

In other words, a one-way ticket from Tel Aviv to:

  • London would cost 105,000 Membership Rewards points
  • New York would cost 175,000 Membership Rewards points
  • Los Angeles would cost 187,500 Membership Rewards points

Now, in fairness I’ve been branching out and trying many airlines that aren’t a good value using points. However, without exception they’ve been airlines that have reasonable paid premium fares. For example, I recently flew Ukraine International Airlines, given that they consistently have cheap business class fares, and many people may have considered them as an alternative to redeeming miles on another airline. As I found out, it wasn’t really worth it, though I thought doing the “research” was worthwhile.

In the case of EL AL, redeeming miles on them represents a horrible value, and I’ve never seen a cheap paid first class ticket on them either. Years ago we saw a 20% transfer bonus from Amex to EL AL, which makes their rates slightly less obscene… but that’s about it.

So, what say you guys — is there any way I can rationalize redeeming 175,000 Amex points for a product that looks like a sub-par business class? Is there a better way to book an EL AL first class ticket?

Comments

  1. El AL is pretty shity. As israies, sometimes we don’t have other good choices, so we have to settle.
    They frequent flyer became worse in the last few years…
    We would love you to visit Israel. I would say try it just to review it once

  2. You could a) fly business instead of first or b) coco se the 105,000 option and then take someone else home from London.

  3. You probably have a lot more readers who travel to Israel than who travel to Brunei or Azerbaijan (though i’m excited for a trip in late April to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), but that said El Al really isn’t that exciting.

    While i’d love to read a review, I know their hard product is ~20 years behind the curve and the soft product is the typical Israeli ‘efficient yet angry’ style of service. While your writing style would paint a better picture than I ever could, if your goal is to ‘educate your readers’ theres not much you can do. If you want to write an interesting article then yes, please fly El Al and spend a few days in Israel as well.

    Also, please write the trip report on Laos and Cambodia

  4. I’d just sit on it and wait for a decent paid J or F fare, not worth the points. Even if they devalue, are you going to feel like you missed out on it? I don’t think so.

  5. Contrary to posters above, I absolutely would love it if you could review the El Al F product. Given that most of your reader base is in US, I can understand that they might not find it useful; but for the rest of us (and we are growing as you may know already from viewer stats), its a very good opportunity to have a definitive verdict.

    If you can transfer the miles and be okay with it, please do it.

  6. If you really, really wanted to do this :), skip the redemptions and use cash for the ticket to LHR ($1,500) or redeem the points for it and you would still save over what an award ticket would cost!

  7. I think an El Al review would be timely. Make sure you spend some time in Israel, it’s an amazing place to visit (both J’lem and TLV).

    You’re going to see a lot of anti-semitic shit in this comment section. Ignore that. Without fail, antisemitism comes from people who haven’t accomplished much themselves and who are envious at the Jewish people for their wit, resilience and ability to make something out of nothing. Contrast that to any and all of Israel’s neighbors, who are consumed with killing, torturing and hurting people.

    If only all nations strived like Israelis do, the world would be a better place.

  8. Two things I would say–
    1) El Al is pretty bad, but there is really no other airline in the world that better encapsulates its country’s culture. You will get a true taste of Israel flying with them.
    2) Don’t just go for the flight. Israel is by far the most incredible place I’ve ever visited. You should spend time in Jerusalem and a little in Tel Aviv to really get a taste of Israel.

  9. Yours is an airline review blog and not some political commentary, so please please do the review on El Al despite what the intolerant-but-supposedly-tolerant people commenting.

    However I’d be extra careful about passport requirements. Muslim countries (not just the Arab Middle Eastern countries but North African, Indonesia, Brunei, etc) have been reported to deny entry to visitors with Israeli entry stamps in their passport.

  10. They don’t put entry stamps in your passpor anymore. They give you a little paper entry card that you keep for your duration of your stay. No worries about that issue.

  11. No. Do take your time to explore Brunei (a fascinating place, was just in Malaysian Borneo and wish I could make a detour, but didn’t have any extra vacation days to allow for this) and Jordan though! Was in Jordan in April and loved it.

  12. Go to Israel but don’t bother will El Al. Israel is an amazing country and El Al is a shitty way to get there. I say this having flown them in Y and J many times. My personal preference for flying to Israel is J on Swiss since they are the only European carrier that flies widebodies to TLV. BA also does but Swiss J is better.

  13. You should definitely visit Israel, but don’t fork over the points just to try El Al. It’s a complete waste; your instincts are correct. If you’re going to fly El Al, you’d be better off settling for their super sub-par business class and saving the rest of your points for something more worthwhile, but, again, even that’s a questionable proposition.

    In other news, fresh of a trip in Emirates and Etihad first class, I’m booked on El Al in economy LAX-TLV in a few weeks…

  14. I agree with Charlie. I recall El-Al used to be partners with AA which meant AAdvantage miles could have been redeemed but award space was scarce. Either way, if it’s only for the review, then paying $1500 for a one-way first class ticket on El-Al is a better option than redeeming 175,000 MR points!

  15. Do it. The purpose of your blog is to inform and entertain by reviewing as many of the world’s premium cabin products as you can. If you fly to Israel on a carrier you’ve already reviewed, readers aren’t going to get as much from your trip report. No offense but your blog isn’t really travel-focused per se. So take one for the team and give the internet/freq flyer community what it’s currently lacking: a really superlative El Al review…something only you can offer.

  16. As an Israeli, I can just tell you that years ago I’ve stopped flying EL AL. Old planes, poor frequent flyer club are just a few reasons why. Only two 777′ in their fleet (which includes 744/763/772/739/738) has AVOD, so you can understand what I’m talking about.
    Tel Aviv airport, has so much alternatives so we don’t fly EL AL any more! You can fly SWISS A333 via Zurich, British 787/777 via Heathrow , fly United daily 787 to SFO or even twice a day 777 to EWR, Air Canada 787 to Toronto, Delta 777 to JFK, Hainan , Korean air, Lufthansa, turkish, Aeroflot, Austrian, Ethiopian, Alitalia, KLM, Air France, uia, finnair, air Europa, transavia, easyjet, wizzair, soon also Cathay Pacific A350 to hkg and Ryanair and such more! So in other words, yes, make a connection in Tel Aviv, but don’t let EL AL take you there. And by the way, the other Israeli options (arkia, up , sundor and Israir) aren’t better then el al. Have a safe trip!

  17. I don’t get this. As you have said many times and as the comments often repeat, reviewing travel product is your job. Is there a market for a review of this particular product? If there is, review it – if not why bother? I can’t for a moment believe that redeeming 105K MR points or shelling out the actual cash would be a problem for you. Obviously if you just don’t fancy the gig yourself….don’t do it. Or nudge someone else to do it.

  18. Lucky, this is your job! Gotto bite the bullet. Or just pay for it and earn the 5x points and expense it…

  19. Just a tip: check a Jewish calendar before booking to get cheaper fares. Jewish holidays, even minor ones, can greatly increase airfare. Also ElAl doesn’t usually have cheap OW fares but has decent RT fares.

    I personally think J is a better value on ElAl than F.

  20. Lucky, before AZ tanks, it could be one of your last attempts at trying their new J…

    If you’re in Dubai, hop to AUH and fly on AZ J to MXP.

    Once in MXP, its good ‘ol Emirates to JFK.

  21. The goal of this blog is to review different airlines and its products whether they are good or bad. You did not have any reservations when you booked Air India, PAK and other subpar airlines. So to single out EL AL and try to look for excuses not fly them does not make sense. Please ignore the naysayers and find a way to review it.

  22. Don’t do it. You can fly from jordan directly with RJ to LHR or JFK with the dreamliner. Much much worth it than the 30 year old 747 of EL AL! Or consider passing through IST as there are 7 daily flights between TLV and IST with Turkish! Alternatively, swiss. You were very satufied with thier product and they operate 330-300 with first class to and from TLV

  23. At first, I wanted to say don’t do it. It’s a complete waste of your points. But, on second thought, I’d be super interested in reading your (likely negative) review. Go for it!

    In other news, fresh off a trip in first on Emirates and Etihad, I’m set to fly coach on El Al LAX-TLV. God save me.

  24. considered reviewing KLM’s busines class reverse heringbone seats onboard their new 787. They now have a daily direct AMS to SFO. It is a busy route so award space might proof to be limited.

  25. It’s a significant airline serving a significant destination from the US and it is not well reviewed. I would like to see a review.

    But that’s easy to for me to say. The mileage required is outrageous.

  26. They will have new planes in 2018, I think. You may just want to wait and review it once the hard product is actually good…

    By the way, can I make a guest post? I just got a chance to try out the new Royal Air Marcoc lounge that just opened before my QR RAK-DOH flight, and I be happy to do so. Email and let me know! I do enjoy reading your posts (and if you do fly El Al before they change their aircraft, I would read it, but I feel like you’d be disappointed).

  27. If you don’t have any intellectual curiosity or interest in visiting Israel, historical, religious or cultural, and you would just be touching down in Tel Aviv and not visiting Jerusalem, then it’s a waste of time for you and your readers for you to go there with El Al or any other airline.

  28. Like others above have said, Israel is a fascinating place to visit. Wife and I went there for a Holy Land tour, which was spectacular. Even for non-religious touring purposes, going to a mountain fortress like Masada overlooking the Dead Sea (where you automatically float) is pretty cool. Of course, if you or your bus drive along the Palestinian wall, you truly can see/feel the tension.

    We flew El Al in Economy from JFK to Tel Aviv, and the 747s are definitely old and in the Winter of their lives. I can’t remember if it was a broken armrest or what-not by our seats, but oh well. What stood out more than anything else is El Al pre-flight passenger screening. it seemed that those traveling alone (from our travel group) were given more attention/scrutiny.

    You should fly using the most economical method (points vs. cash), just like you would for any other flight/redemption. Hope you make the trip, would be fun/funny to read your review.

  29. Hey Ben

    there is a way to plan for you to fly with ELAL in business class to Europe and from Europe continue on KLM 787 to China (i know you wanted to fly to the USA).

    If i am correct, LY has upgrade options with CASH to First class (even with the purser). its similar to what you did with Xiamen Airlines. so if you take such a ticket with at least 1 segment with LY you could try to upgrade to first. if not so try business class which is basically the same.

    i can see LY operating 747 during AUG. so give it a try

    Option 1
    TLV-AMS: LY 747
    AMS-CTU CZ (OPERATED BY KL 787)
    CTU-AMS CZ (OPERATED BY KL 787)
    AMS-TLV LY 747

    the above will cost you USD 3216

    Option 2
    TLV-AMS: KL
    AMS-CTU CZ (OPERATED BY KL 787)
    CTU-AMS CZ (OPERATED BY KL 787)
    AMS-TLV LY 747

    the above will cost you USD 2389

    Option 3 (this option will mean you dont fly ELAL but fly alot of KL product and can get many miles)
    TLV-AMS: KL
    AMS-CTU CZ (OPERATED BY KL 787)
    CTU-AMS CZ (OPERATED BY KL 787)
    AMS-TLV KL

    the above will cost you USD 1561

    all these tickets are under China Southern ticket stock
    check the ASK LUCKY to see the files with the routing i send you

  30. Honestly, while I think you should totally visit Israel, I would not be disappointed if you chose an airline other then El Al. I would!

  31. Good advice, work with a travel agent to book you the space while you transfer the points till you get executive status etc

  32. Shout out to this latest troll “Hosea” commenting on every post saying “X airlines has some of the best networking opportunities”.
    Maverick trolling coupled with strong commitment.

  33. Don’t fly EL AL. It’s an airline run by Jews so ofcourse they are going to be cheap and stingy when it comes to providing the extras in premium cabins.
    I do give EL AL credit though for being the safest airline in the world. The Israelis have never been messed with. They’ll never let them on the plane in he first place.

  34. I agree with Alex: “You probably have a lot more readers who travel to Israel than who travel to Brunei or Azerbaijan … but that said El Al really isn’t that exciting.”

    I would have been very interested in an El Al review if it was an good product. I hadn’t realised it was so mediocre-looking. Wait until they have a better product.

  35. @lucky – longtime reader and I stumbled onto your blog in 2012 because you appeared against a search result for a product which TPG (my “gateway” blogger, which I have since stopped following) hadn’t yet reviewed. My point is, your content drove me to your site and I’ve been a daily reader ever since. You’ve built a very successful business doing what you do, so far be it for me to dish out advice, but here is my opinion and I would extend it to any other “questionable” review: it seems to me that your goal for 2016 (and now 2017) is a business class extension to your earlier quest to be the only/first blogger to have reviewed all A380 first products. If I recall, you went out of your way to nail down the AF redemption (at a steep cost) for the sake of the redemption – there was likely a business rationale for that review, in addition to the personal satisfaction! That drive to be first and to have a detailed review (that is consistent with your other reviews of products that are otherwise more widely reviewed) is what makes your reviews so interesting to readers like me. So my first point is, you should have as much content as possible because your next avid reader could stumble onto your blog because they were looking for an ELAL review on google and then got hooked to onemileatatime.

    My second point is more specific to ELAL: My guess is that points redemptions to TLV are in high demand among North American readers. When planning in advance, I agree with @Jacob that Swiss via ZRH is the best option given their A330 service between ZRH and TLV. Sky team is great for rates as @Lucky has mentionned on a number of occasions in the sense that TLV is considered Europe for redemptions, but they run narrow bodies with Y class seats in J which sort of sucks on a 4+ hour flight. My guess is a reader who is planning a trip to TLV might not book ELAL in advance. Having said that, people with extended family in Israel sometimes need to book last minute (illness, funerals, etc.) and at that point ELAL may very well be a viable option if “better” redemption options no longer have availability, but you need to be on the next flight out. In fact, redeeming 180k membership rewards for first vs shelling out a few thousand $ on a last minute Y fare might seem like a great option if you NEED to be on that flight. Depending on the person’s financial situation, MR could be he only way to make it on that flight. So on that basis, I think it’s worth doing the review. To be clear, someone who just found out they need to travel for a funeral the next day is not likely to start reading reviews, but the travel hacker nephew or cousin who is booking the flight might, or having read the review 6 months earlier might inform the decision on the spot.

    Sorry for the long post, but I see no reason not to review the product on (at least in one direction) from the blog’s perspective. Your return leg could be on a more desirable product out of TLV so that you can do a broader post about redemptions to TLV.

    More importantly, spend time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv!

    Thanks for all the hard work, much appreciated.

  36. @Ben we all will be happy to read a review of El Al. But if its not possible, then you can fly ethiopian airlines to US.

  37. As a private citizen, I would never fly that airline. However your job and the purpose of this blog is to review various airlines. Thus, I would recommend you fly and review, even if we know the product is inferior.

  38. ELAL is a horrible airline – My family is Israeli, I do my best to avoid El AL at all costs – The service is horrible, its rude, obnoxious. Just not a good flight – I liken it to flying on Spirit Air for 12 hours – That being said its worth a review so readers can see how NOT to redeem miles. But if security is your concern, there is nobody like EL Al and the Israeli Airport Authorities – I wish our TSA would take some lessons from them

  39. While a lot of naysayers are saying no and claiming that it’s a waste of points/money, I think you should do it. Not just because yours is a blog reviewing airlines and such, but also because you have been fairly pleasantly surprised in the recent past by airlines (Xiamen, anyone?) for whom you had low expectations based strictly on hard product and/or lack of other reviews. Definitely don’t waste your MR points on a redemption given the super terrible conversion rate, but if you can do a *reasonable* paid fare, maybe you’ll be likewise delighted.

  40. 1. Your math is off a bit.
    LY upgrades your status to Executive within 24 hours of transferring 5K+ US based AMEX MR points. That means the actual cost of TLV-JFK is 162.5K AMEX and TLV-LAX would be 175K AMEX.

    2. With low expectations you may actually wind up liking it. LY F has decent enough reviews. Just think of their F as J and their J as Y+…

    3. I hope you spend at least a week on the ground in Israel and see the country with your own 2 eyes.

  41. @Lucky, I’ve been to TLV in 2010 through El Al in J (guess their product hasn’t changed THAT much since then?), I can tell you that it’s not the most amazing city. I did a Mid East trip with TLV, J’lem (which was amazing), Amman, Beirut, Damascus. Beirut was definitely the best out of all the cities. The Lebanese people, culture and food are really second to none. Lebanon itself is a very beautiful country. I’d suggest April (you can ski and swim on the same day). Have you thought about Dubai – Paris via BEY then Paris – US through AF? MEA and AF have codeshare agreements I’m pretty sure. Amman is also great – it’s different and unique, you’ll love it. Damascus was an amazing city too. But yes, Beirut! SUGGESTION: If you end up wasting your points with El Al and TLV, make sure to not stamp your passport with the Israeli stamp (unless you want to not go back to UAE, Qatar, etc for a few years).

  42. First world problem. Get over it how about you trave, Egypt Air or El Al ECONOMY. now that would be an entertaining review for all of us.

  43. Because there is not much difference in the soft product between J and F a good way to review the hard product is taking a LY 747 that is being sold as 2 class, that way when you buy J you can seat in F.
    In the summer months El Al are operating 747 and sometime 777 with first class to Europe.
    You can check AMS-TLV on Friday’s in July/August…

  44. Because there is not much difference in the soft product between J and F a good way to review the hard product is taking a LY 747 that is being sold as 2 class, that way when you buy J you can sit in F.
    In the summer months El Al are operating 747 and sometime 777 with first class to Europe.
    You can check AMS-TLV on Friday’s in July/August…

  45. I can only imagine the horrible body odor on an El Al flight. After living in Brooklyn for a couple years I have zero interest in flying in a confined space with them.

  46. @JT
    TLV is the most tolerant middle eastern city you’ll find, but you’re correct, it doesn’t need more than a day.
    Jerusalem, Tzvat, Dead Sea, Rosh Hanikra, Golan Heights, are all worth spending time in though.

    Israel hasn’t stamped passports in a few years now. They give you a separate slip of paper. But even if you do ask for a stamp there’s no issue visiting the UAE or other countries, not sure why you think that.

  47. ++ for Charlies suggestion. Get to London and then try a different carrier to US
    Completely insane to spend MRpoints to do TLV-US in F

  48. Pay cash, write up an honest review, and mark off another airline product. Just try to cut out the preconceived notions before the review. (We all have them, and it’s hard to shut them out.) If it’s better than expected, great; if it’s worse, so be it.

  49. Ben, an ELAL review is a must! The airline is not great but it is an experience. I fly with them a few times a year out of LAX and it is always memorable. The product is not great but you will not be disappointed. Please do it!!

  50. Have you looked at booking that flight using AAdvantage miles? As I recall, El Al partners with AA so there would be a chance to use less miles.

  51. I’ve been to Israel and I loved the trip – definitely go! As for ELAL, it is a bad value situation – hard and soft product mediocre at a very high price. Isn’t it enough to inform your savvy readers that there are better deals out there and then fly another carrier and report on it? It’s always interesting to read your reviews – good or bad – but how many of your readers would take this carrier given the value proposition going in? It’s like paying $4000 for a bottle of Bordeaux from a bad vintage and reporting back that the wine was overrated and nasty!

  52. Ben, you deserve credit for the effort made, wanting to figure out a way how to do it. As much as i would like to read YOUR report on an LY flight, having been on many of them over the years in all classes, i can not stand by idle and watch you waste all those Frequent flier points on an LY flight. Maybe an idea to consider their flights out of BKK or HKG to TLV, originating the fare in India, Maldives or elsewhere cheap. Alternatively, i would say to you, you have waited this long to fly el al, wait a bit longer and then take one of their 787 flights, when they finally get delivery of the aircraft. You will not enjoy flying them 1st or biz class, because their hard product does not stand ups against other & better hard products. Their soft product is good if you have a friendly crew, but EL AL crew work very hard on certain routes. You may still not enjoy it. No more AA miles for LY flights ?

  53. Lucky you should definitely use Turkish Airlines from TLV, you’ve done the review really long ago and much has changed on TK, they have the best fares in Europe and are also the best European airline, try them out and also visit the CIP lounge in IST before the new airport is built there…. Also in my oppinion they have the best catering ever

  54. Given all the “El Al is so shitty” comments, I say absolutely go for it! My curiosity has certainly been peaked. This sounds like the Air India scenario; everyone clamoring about it being such an awful airline and to not bother! Yet, you seemed to have really enjoyed flying AI (with the exception of the LHR-DEL segment) and we really enjoyed reading about it.

    El Al reviews are scarce. Please do the TLV – JFK run in first. I strongly believe you would be doing flyers a valuable service by offering up an honest assessment.

  55. What I would say is this:

    Don’t let miles and points stop you from having a great experience.

    Miles and points are just tools – very valuable tools at that, but don’t allow an expensive red Perkins to you from experiencing something you have always wanted to.

    My approach to miles and points is: so what if a redemption is expensive? Miles are there to be spent, and I think of them as a tool to get the experiences that I want.

    Thus, what I’m trying to say is – don’t let the influence of the cost of miles affect your descison; if you want it, go for it.

    Don’t be precious about miles; use them to enrich your life with experiences that could otherwise could not happen. Life is about experiences; go for it!

  56. Hey Ben,

    When is the last time you can recall a post that is less than a day old generated so many comments? I have flown to Israel too many times to count, and El Al is never the best option. But since you are serious about what you do, I think you need to kinda bite the bullet and review the airline.

    In the event you want to review something that Israeli’s are legitimately proud of, stay in the King David hotel in Jerusalem for a night, or in the Ritz Carlton in Herziliya.

  57. This is obviously a terrible redemption of MR points and paid fares are always high BUT since this is something you do full time and there are very few to no recent reviews of El Al premium product I definitely think you should try it out for the sake of the blog.

  58. I’m quite interested. Not because I think it will be great, but only because Israel is a pretty common business and pleasure travel destination, and I think a lot of readers are interested in all of their options. I’m planning an upcoming trip myself, and wondering what my options are, and how much effort I should make to avoid El Al. Like too many countries, Israel protects El Al with various protectionist measures, and they have little reason to compete on either price or product. They could probably fill twice as many total seats to Israel if they allowed real competition from the US, and sold seats for the free market rate instead of the monopoly prices which are commanded. Great if you are an El Al employee, but terrible for the Country as a whole, as well as its visitors.

  59. I agree with Dan Allen, Stop the Madness!

    Your points are too valuable to throw away on a product like that. I have zero interest in a review of El Al First after seeing the pic of the cabin and learning the insane redemption price. You have already provided all the information we need about this product. Give yourself and us something better – and probably anything else would be.

  60. Another vote for YES, I’d love to read the review. As for the costs, as long as it wouldn’t prevent you from taking other trips, what’s the downside? I wouldn’t do it, since it would take my entire MR balance, but assuming you have 7 or 8-figure balances, it’s not that big of a hit. Plus, with 5x on airfare from the Platinum now, you’ll be earning MR faster than ever before, right?

    Also, ugh @ the “It’s an airline run by Jews” comment. Go back to Stormfront, Justin H.

  61. I would love to see LY review. You tend to be on point with what you write and I often find myself envying you :). If I could, I would just go do an Israel experience and use LY on at least one of the legs (at least the one out of TLV so that you try their lounge). AFAIK, LY is a very unique airline, from the moment you step in the airport, and I would love to hear it from your perspective. I have never used them, but from what I know (a friend from childhood became an LY flight attendant), the airline is no bullshit and pretty basic, but the service is friendly in an Israeli style (sabra, rough around the edges, but deep from the heart). I was in Israel in 2008 and fell in love with it. My fiancé is Lebanese and I truly want to take him there to see the country he was taught to hate since childhood. Lebanon is also pretty amazing, a ME trip report would be nice to see (say, BEY-LOS).
    TLV receives very interesting services from european airlines too… IB uses their reconfigured A319s!
    If you have the miles and are looking forward to try something new, use them on LY; I have never read a F trip report with them, although I know the service is not that different from J class.

  62. I think the number of comments here shows how I interested people would be in an El Al trip report even if it’s am awful airline. Go for it Lucky!

  63. Ben, is a horrible redemption yes, so don’t use the points just buy the ticket with cash and review the product. IF you have the time I too would advise you visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, amazing cities in such a nice country with some very passionate people. Well worth the journey!

  64. What about TLV-OTP? LY operates the 767 on that route and paid business is $700 USD, or Amex pay with points, 35k MR.

  65. My thoughts:

    – Don’t redeem points; find the cheapest fare you can; look at it as another tax deduction.
    – It sounds like a product which has not been extensively reviewed, so will be worth it for clicks.
    – You could also review the airport and any lounges you visit; others have mentioned about security – it would be an interesting read about how security at an Israeli airport compares to other countries.

  66. Terrible redemption! Seems like there’s already quite a consensus on how bad El Al is. Find another, more rational option for now. Perhaps some day El Al will change and you’ll have another opportunity to review a better product that doesn’t rip you off. They aren’t going anywhere.

  67. Fly ElAl only intra-Europe, as they have proper C-seats and food compared to most other European airlines. If having to fly Y, contact me for best, cannot disclose publicly 🙂

  68. i would think you should fly tlv lhr on elal first so there is a 777 200 aircraft and the first cabin is one row and i have flown on this product a few times and its mostly empty the cabin

    so you will have the seat next to you empty and its a quiet cabin mostly you have only one passenger in the cabin or twice i was there myself and its worth it
    and it includes escort from the pane to you special driver that they order to take you to your hotel or home

    so go for it give it a try its just a 5 hour flight

  69. As a fellow world traveller (and airline geek), you reviews and blog resonate with me; THANK YOU for the all the insightful reviews this year!

    As for El EL, you should review this airline someday so the question is when would you be able to secure the most affordable airfare or best mileage redemption. EL AL would be an interesting counterpoint to the Gulf Carriers yet there are further interesting trans-Atlantic airlines to sample such as Aer Lingus, TAP Portugal, Finnair, etc too – your Air France reviews are amongst my favourites

    Happy Christmas greetings and safe travels always,
    Looking forward to your thoughts on Royal Brunei
    your faithful fan from Shanghai (let me know if you come here)

  70. You have much better choices when use your Mileage Plan or Asia Miles (both transferable from MR) to redeem new Cathay Pacific HKG-TLV service with AWESOME A350 with Business Class looks much better than EL AL First Class, let alone that you can book North America-HKG-TLV (with First Class on NA to HKG) and review Cathay A350.
    As someone said correct, EL AL is a shitty airline, they have pretty much inedible food (presumably due to their 100% Kosher approved meal)

  71. Not sure what the fuss is about. Lucky just do it. If a person is not interested they can skip that post.
    On average I would read 4 out of the 6 posts per day according to what my interests and tastes are.
    I hope to one day visit the holy land and I think safety trumps comfort so if they say EL AL is the safest airline then they deserve a flight and a review for us to learn from your experience.

  72. Boy are you in for a fun experience with ElAl/Israeli security screening with all the dodgy stamps you must have in your passport. At least they have the decency to stick a removable page into your passport for their stamps, understanding the likely reaction when you later visit Arab countries. Some travelers have two passports specifically to cater for such prejudices.

    Whilst you are warned to show up at the airport well in advance, my experience is that leaving Israel is even more troublesome then entering it. Looking forward to a fun read …

  73. I would wait until EL AL receives their 787. Fly then. El Al has some benefits. Their business class Europe to TLV is far better than Lufthansa group. Resembles domestic first class rather than middle seat blocked. If u observe kosher than u can order gluten free and kosher e.g. Departing TLV King David lounge is far better than Dan lounges. First class u get a limo drive. Their long haul fleet is finally getting upgraded.

  74. @Lucky:

    As a resident of israel i usually take ba cheap fare biz class when i go to ny

    why don’t you wait a bit until they put out their 787’s which hopefully will have a new product

  75. Lucky El Al have ordered dreamliners which are set to deliver in 2018,as for right now your review would probably be really negative but you may still want to fly then now for comparison.
    Be sure to still visit israel its a unique country(im from israel).

  76. efficient but angry LOL!!! sums up my experience with el al perfectly!
    tbh it was like an easyjet flight, except that easyjet is at least cheap and el al is not. everything’s dated and i felt like i was in a soviet gulag. but do review it. it is a review site after all.

    also, i’m pleasantly surprised the comments are quite civil considering it’s about el al or anything israeli. only 2 racist comments (1 about the airline run by jews and the other about how the comment section will be overrun by antisemitic comments and then proceed to say israel’s neighbors are murderous. lucky’s talking about an airline why take it so personally ffs)

  77. The 747 fleet of El Al should be replaced with 787-9 during the next 2-3 years.
    Maybe it makes sense to wait and review their new product?

  78. Try emirates business. It is very different from their first class. Also, if you fly on their 777 , make sure not to get the middle seat.

  79. I’m really surprised to see people recommending reviewing Emirates. You people never hear of looking at the archives?

    That menu is uninspiring to say the least.

    I’m amused to imagine a Ryanair review but I’d really like to see a review of WizzAir. I’ve rarely encountered a better definition of the word “surly” than on a full WAW-LTN flight.

  80. @Bev, Those of us who are recommending Emirates are doing so because he is in DXB, so it is a convenient choice. I Recommended business class because I checked the archives and there are not emirates business class reviews, and I would like to read a review, because many people have told me that their business class is actually subpar, so it would be a cool review to read.

  81. From a business perspective, reviewing LY is a no-brainer.

    (i) This post has generated 110+ comments at time of writing. How often does that happen on your “should I redeem for X” posts? Sure, a bunch of those comments are are from the frothing-at-the-mouth, thinly-veiled anti-semitic peeps who will use any opportunity, no matter how contorted, to spew their vitriolic venom, but click-click-click they will.

    (ii) Perhaps the one airline I’ve wanted to see you review more than GA F is LY F. First, it’s not widely reviewed (more clicks), and second, I’m hoping some negative publicity may actually prompt some positive change (see, e.g., China Eastern review).

    (iii) You’ve taken on, as your business, to review as many premium products as you can. Sure, LY is only arguably premium (even in F!), but it is nonetheless glaringly absent from your list. If not for us, review it for consistency, science, and business sake.

    (iv) Of your readers, I imagine that there are more people interested in how to get to TLV than to get to CSX or ALA, yet you’ve reviewed airlines to those destinations.

    Plug the gap, gain some additional traffic, and review LY F.

  82. Don’t bother with el al, doesn’t interest me in anyway, save your points for something else that’s actually a solid product.

  83. I would think redeeming points would be a tax deduction in and of itself, since it is property considered tangible for a divorce decree (even future mileage earning has been used in divorce court proceedings) it gives it an economic basis.

    And a comprehensive review of every first class product out there is a worthy goal, worthy enough of the spend. Besides, it’s just going to depreciate as earn-and-burn philosophy dictates 🙂

  84. If you go to Tel Aviv, you should stay at the David Intercontinental Hotel and if you stay on a high floor you can get such amazing views of the sea and the Club lounge is pretty nice.

  85. ElAl’s frequent flyer program does suck. However, you should review it. Due to the fact that El Al does not belong to any airline group it is very difficult/expensive to utilize El Al points. Remember that this is due to the fact that every Arab airline has vetoed El Al participation in its group and since every group has an Arab airline – here you are.
    The only suggestion to cut down the exorbitant point cost – why not try the business class.
    BTW the sub-first menu is due to the fact that all food in El Al is kosher! That means no dairy deserts or delicacies in a meat meal and of course black Caviar is not Kosher 🙂

  86. Don’t do it – I flew both biz and 1st class last winter – and both were horrid. Biz class: there is less privacy than any domestic economy flight I’ve ever been on.The food was horrid and the alcohol was too!!! I kid you not. We were so close together I could not escape the guy next to me and his breath (configuration was THREE in the middle and I was next to two guys, while i was on the aisle). On the way back I paid to upgrade to First at the airport (close to $2,000) and it wasn’t much better. Food awful, alcohol still awful, etc. It was a bit more private because I had no one next to me (only a few of us suckers in the world!). I will never fly them again – even if i have to connect through Bagdhad to get somewhere!

  87. Lucky, I just flew El Al last
    Week from Athens to Tel Aviv. The flight it self was uneventful but the service stunk and the plane was booked full and they had the heat on the entire flight. HOT!! Also, preboarding-they basically interrogate you. Just a heads up.
    Laurie in BKK

  88. I have flown many times on El Al 777-200 business from LAX to TLV, and it is always a sub-par experience. They use the old “wedgie seats”, so called because you gradually slide down while sleeping due to the angle of the seat. Very similar to AA’s old business class on the intl. 767. There is no privacy, and you have to choose between a seat which makes you climb over your seatmate to get out, or a seat where you are the person to be climbed over. United now flies non stop from the West Coast to TLV, and their 787 seats are a bit better. Still no privacy in business, but at least the seats go all the way down. Unfortunately, their flight from SFO is scheduled to arrive late in the evening, effectively shortening your vacation by a whole day.

  89. Why not book a one-way from or to London-TLV? They offer First Class and its the same exact product. Far fewer points needed for the same exact experience — and then everybody wins! You get to finally fly El Al First Class, we get to read your report.

    Also, don’t forget: El Al will be putting its new 787s on the London-TLV line and there won’t be a First Class anymore. So you might as well bite the bullet and fly El Al F before it doesn’t exist anymore! Also, you can then fly them down the road in Business Class on the new 787s and you would be 100% qualified to write a comparative review of the old product vs. new.

    While we’re at it: you should really review El Al’s European business class. El Al is actually very much in a league of its own vs. European carriers and far, far better. It isn’t the fake business with middle seat blocked — it’s the real McCoy with 45″ pitch recliners, completely separate cabin and service. Plus, unlike the old jalopies on the long-haul lines, most of the planes are brand new 737-900ERs (although they do run some older 737-800s on certain lines). They have a sale going on until 3/31 with certain destinations as low as only 350 El Al Matmid points per direction (+$89 taxes/fuel). Only 17500 Amex MR points. Nobody has reviewed this either in a thoughtful, comprehensive fashion.

    And now for the kicker: El Al also operates its 777s on some European flights (Sofia, Bulgaria and Barcelona, Spain come to mind). You can easily find the dates with ITA. Another great way to book a cheap ticket cash or points and experience their long-haul business product!

  90. As an Israeli i can tell you myself that i am ashamed on our national airline! Their J class just doesnt worth the money! A class is almost the same as J. There businesd class menu is a big shame, also their frequent flyer program is the worst and becaming only worst and worst! Nowadays, i am a senator member in miles and more and it was so easy to get there, i flew few times TLV-LAX with swiss and TLV-ZRH and i became a senator! In el al to reach their tier level you should fly so many times in A or C class in the highest fares. And if u stop flying with el al for 1 year you are set to basic status, despite lh which enables the status for at least 2 years even if you hsvent fly enought for requalification the status! In concs, MAKE A STEP AWAY FROM EL AL!

  91. @lucky I mean, if 2.17 points per mile for membership rewards points is good, than the 4.27 cents per point for EL AL first class from LAX must be great.

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