An Opportunity To Try EL AL First Class (At Last)?

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.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a follow-up post about considering flying EL AL, talking about just how overpriced their first class awards are, despite the fact that their first class looks like a sub-par business class. For example, a one-way first class award from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles would cost 187,000 Membership Rewards points.

El-Al-First-Class-101

Well, the good news is that the post generated a lot of discussion, including some good ideas from readers about how to try EL AL first class without breaking the (mileage) bank. Charlie mentioned how a one-way first class ticket from Tel Aviv to London costs $1,500 or so. While that’s still not cheap, I’d rather do that then redeem so many points for a ticket, so that was my plan for flying EL AL first class.

Well, it looks like there’s an even better deal, as reader Paul pointed out that EL AL seems to have especially good first class fares out of London at the moment.

You can fly roundtrip EL AL first class from London to Tel Aviv for ~$1,700, which is just ~$200 more than the usual cost of a one-way ticket:

El-Al-Fare-1

Availability is wide open across many dates:

El-Al-Fare-2

Ultimately this seems like a great way to try EL AL first class, and more importantly, visit Israel. Like I said, I have low expectations of EL AL’s first class product based on their seats and online menus, though this still seems like a nice opportunity to try them.

Perhaps my bigger concern is hoping that I don’t get much pushback with my picture taking, given how security-focused EL AL is.

What do you guys think — should I take advantage of this EL AL first class fare to visit Israel?

Comments

  1. Given how security focused they are, if you really want to get pictures, this might be one of the rare times to actually reach out to the airline to coordinate some of it, just so they don’t assume that you are a terrorist. And explain to them that you want to do an honest review, because that is what your readers expect.

  2. I’d say go for it and don’t worry too much about the picture. Make sure to spend time in Israel, more than your usual 3 days, making time to visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea in addition to Tel Aviv. You’ll have a blast!

  3. Yesss finalyyy !!!!!! If your coming in July Ill be done from my exchange year here in the US and back home ! And I wanna see you and take you around !!! your biggest middle eastern aviation geek blog fan I guess !!

  4. I have a friend thats connected with a lot of the hotels there if you are interested. Would be happy to help!

  5. @lucky which passport will you use for the visit to Israel? It’s been awhile since I’ve been but my understanding is that some of the stamps on your passport might raise some flags upon entry. Is that still the case or no?

  6. Only go if you plan to spend more than your usual 24-48 hours visiting a destination as going to Israel without spending time in Jerusalem is really pretty dumb.

  7. @Evan

    Israel stopped stamping passports on upon entry and exit in 2014. They now give you paper slips instead. Most countries are ok with Israel stamps before that time though, except Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and maybe a few others.

  8. Absolutely do it! I’d love to read an El Al review! And I agree that you should coordinate your photography with the airline in advance. Unless you want to do a review of the Shin Bet. 🙂

  9. My guess is he won’t leave his beachfront western hotel for the 48 hours he’s there.

    And 1700 for a four hour flight is hardly a deal.

  10. I echo the above comments. Israel is a country which is tiny and at the same time incredibly large. You would need a good few days to get a feel for the country. You have Masada/dead sea, Jerusalem, Golan heights, Mediterranean coast and so much more. Stay as much time out of Tel Aviv and explore the rest of this awesome country.

  11. Of course Lucky should do it!

    Tel Aviv doesn’t get much love from OMAAT readers. It’s actually a wonderfully vibrant place; it’s one of my favorite cities and would be a perfect spot to spend 48 hours.

    I fear, though, that Ben will want to stay at a points-accepting hotel. Ug. Tel Aviv’s mainstream hotel scene is just putrid. The boutique hotels, on the other hand, are often extraordinary. I loved the Montefiore and Alma.

    Doesn’t El Al also have a flight to Paris with a first class cabin?

  12. Cue the people who will accuse Ben of being a secret Nazi if he doesn’t go. That’s $170/hr of premium cabin. More than I’d pay.

  13. On another note…

    I really hate the whole “if you come, you have to stay 14 days” ethos that a lot of citizens of different countries have.

    I encountered this on an 8 day trip to New Zealand and it really rubbed me the wrong way.

    Every NZ resident we met said “8 days? That’s not nearly enough time.” We’d heard this for years, that we need 3 weeks in NZ. Well, we never had 3 weeks, we had American jobs that wouldn’t allow that extravagant a break. So we put it off. Then we went for 8 days. And it was great.

    Similarly I did five days in Israel and the occupied lands. Saw a lot, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea. Another trip where the fear of not seeing everything deterred my going.

    I live in California. Yes I could design an epic 4 week trip for you that would cover everything. But just come for four days. You’ll have a great time.

  14. FINALLY – Israel and with EL AL seem to be in your reach soon.
    I was in Israel for 10 days October 2016 (after 30 yrs away – I was really excited for the changes. On arrival, very fast and smooth and VERY friendly people all over. As other mention, no stamps in your passport – minutes after arrival and before you knew it just a small paper /w photo and info you can keep and you are out …much FASTER and more friendly welcome service than ex USA. Ben, hope you give yourself some time to see Israel with so many amazing places and great friendly people.
    Go for it – You would love it!

  15. It’s such a short flight. It’s blocked at under 5 hours so you know it’ll be less…Usually about 4 3/4. It’s only about 2300 miles…like LAX to IAD. Now sure you can test things or, but it certainly won’t be a true long haul experience. But maybe you don’t want that.

  16. Told ya this last time, TLV-JFK is 162.5K and TLV-LAX is 175K in F if you wait 24 hours after making an AMEX transfer to LY.

    Under 5 hours on a plane in F is pretty lame. Splurge for the 15.5 hour TLV-LAX longhaul in F to get a real sense of the product.

  17. I don’t see any point in reaching out to them in advance a out talknn pictures. The chances of that information actually being passed down from the corporate office to the FA’s are extremely slim.

    Once you get passed their security in the airport, it is just like any other airline. No one will care if you take pictures in the lounge, or of the seat or the menu or the meals or the lavatory. If in doubt, tell the crew bit I doubt anyone will care.

  18. I would be very cautious regarding photographing anyplace at the airport. In my opinion this caution would apply inside or outside of terminals and I extend this warning to any ELAL station worldwide. If ELAL is operating anyplace nearby you can assume some tired looking lounging around person might be a great help during an emergency.

  19. If you’ve never been to Israel, you must go. If you’ve never flown El Al, you must once. May both only bring you blessings.

  20. I have no idea how you’re supposed to sleep next to a stranger in those 2-2-2 seats. Your heads would be so close you could hear them breathing, they’d breath on you if not facing the correct direction. Disgusting! Honestly looks worse than even some 2-3-2 or 2-4-2 J products because of how close your heads would be with no decent divider. I can see even worse footsie happening than with the new LH J seat too, no divider at all… All it takes is them turning sideways a bit and stretching or bending a leg. Ewwwww.

    I wouldn’t waste a dime on such an embarrassing product. Maybe a review calling out how shitty it is would be a good thing, but I honestly don’t think I could get a minute more sleep in that thing than in economy, perhaps less due to the ick factor.

  21. Yes go for it I like the additional security they have in the airport although the crew I found nice and friendly the cabin is very dated as far the country once I went it became my favorite especially Jerusalem and the old city went Friday evening when they have a huge crowd at the western wall I was amazed

  22. Flying in a coffin,just beware they dont arrest you and expell you,they gonna be very suspicious if you take pictures,might end up confiscating your material.
    This is the most awkwatd decision you ve taken.

  23. They won’t care about the photos if you just tell them the truth about why you’re taking them. They may, however, ask you not to take photos of certain things in the TLV airport.

    Places to stay:

    RC in Herzliya
    King David in Jerusalem

    Both AMEX FHR hotels.

  24. I agree with @Dan above, you should review one of their long-haul flights either to/from USA or maybe one of their Asian flights to/from Hong Kong or Bangkok. You could even combine this with reviewing Cathay Pacific’s A350 Business Class, as they commence direct flights to Tel Aviv in March. A 5 hour flight doesn’t seem long enough to fully review the product. Seems like EL-AL charge a pretty steep premium for the convenience of a direct flight, on what seems to be a pretty mediocre offering.

  25. Good idea to visit Israel, but El Al is a complete waste of time and money.

    You better off donating those $1700 than giving them to El Al.

    The only good thing is that you’ll enjoy the King David lounge in TLV.

    I as an Israeli never fly El Al.

  26. Hi!

    I worked in TLV Airport for a few years.
    My recommendations are as follows:
    1) Don’t take pictures of check in area in London. If you wish to do so anyways, ask the head of security permission- although I doubt you will be authorized.
    2) In the airplane there shouldn’t be any problem – I always see people taking pics everywhere including with the pilots in the cockpit.
    3) TLV airport arrivals- no problem taking pictures at all.
    4) Departure from TLV- avoid taking pics pre-check-in. Post check-in’ no problem.
    5) If you need more advice feel free to contact me.

  27. I think this is a waste of money for a very inferior F hard product (and too short a flight). Are they getting a new first class anytime soon ?

  28. Why would you not wait until H2 2017 when El Al takes delivery of its first 787? Similar to your logic of waiting to review Uzbekistan Airlines once it startS flying the 787 to US, why would you review a sub-standard business class product which the airline is due to start phasing out?

  29. Go for it! Ive flown El Al many times and never had any problems, even thogh i take dozens of photos before, on and after the flight. make sure to spend a couple days in Israel as well, its a Great Country!

  30. @imperator
    I stayed at the Sheraton in Tel Aviv and it was FANTASTIC….across from the beach, beautiful upgraded platinum room with an amazing view. Food all day at the lounge and full breakfast buffet at the reastaurant….For 12000 points…and 5th night free.
    It is a great hotel, specially for frequent guests.

  31. Really? Biritsh have 2 daily flights LHR TLV route on 787 and 777, in my opinion you should take british’s 787 for a ride. El Al’s first just doesn’t worth 1700$. Their only advantage is the lounge in TLV which is the best in TLV airport.

    I’m sure you ll like Tel Aviv so much!

  32. If looking for a good way to get to Israel, you can book LX J ZRH-TLV and pay $300 to upgrade to an F seat (but with J service). Since you haven’t yet reviewed LX F on the A330.

    As other people said, once you’ve passed security at TLV, you’re fine. I took photos of the terminal, shops, airplanes, boarding gate, interior cabin, all fine.

  33. I’ve taken photos with a professional camera/lens at Ben Gurion in the airport and from curbside which has a nice view of El Al’s planes parked at the terminal, even on the ramp at ETH. No one bothered me. As long as you’re quick about it and don’t act creepy, you should be fine. There are also plane spotters shooting around TLV as well so security knows there’s photography taking place.

  34. Anyone asking why Lucky isn’t considering taking a long haul flight just needs to look at that picture again.

    A 5 hour daytime flight would be ok, but anything overnight in those sardine can seats would be, as C said, disgusting. ;(

    But do go, many of us are looking forward to a trip report; but mainly for the country, not the airline.

  35. No problem taking pics.
    FYI bussiness class from Europe to Israel is a better product then other airlines, First is just a waste of time and points (as an expiriance). If you fly from erope to Israel LHR is the place to start (they operate their own loungh).
    Israel is great, try the hotels in Jerusalem.

  36. Even Israelis don’t like flying El Al. You will kind of be taking one for the team on this. Can you get that LHR-TLV fare on a one way basis?

  37. Whatever expectations you have for ELAL, please lower them further. They take advantage of the loyalty of those of us “of the Hebrew persuasion.”
    About TLV, and security, it is different, because they really do not care about being accused of “profiling.”
    They also believe the best tools are actually watching the reactions of someone asked “awkward” questions, and to see the emergence of any hostility. That is what sends you to their “SSSS.”
    Israel is an amazing destination. Enjoy.

  38. Not only should you, you should let me know when you’ll be here and I’ll take you out to lunch and show you stuff like a local. I’ve got some business associates in the travel arena I could introduce you to.

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