The Best Way To Redeem Miles For EL AL First & Business Class Between The US & Israel

While EL AL certainly isn’t the world’s best airline, they’re an especially useful airline for getting between the US and Israel, given how few nonstop flights there are between the two countries.

Up until 2014, the best way to redeem miles on EL AL was through American AAdvantage, though that partnership was discontinued. EL AL doesn’t have many airline partners, meaning that the best way to redeem awards on EL AL has been through their own Matmid program, which is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards.

Redeeming Qantas points on EL AL

Well, at least that’s what we thought until recently. Just over a month ago I wrote about the expanded partnership between EL AL and Qantas, which includes reciprocal points redemptions. The good news is that Qantas Frequent Flyer is a Citi ThankYou transfer partner, so this is a great use of ThankYou points.

The catch is that only EL AL flights between Tel Aviv and Europe/Asia were bookable through Qantas’ website, and not tickets to & from the US.

For example, the following number of Qantas points are required for one-way travel on EL AL:

  • Tel Aviv to Bangkok or Beijing — 35,000 miles economy, 65,000 miles business, 95,000 miles first
  • Tel Aviv to Hong Kong — 42,000 miles economy, 78,000 miles business
  • Tel Aviv to London — 20,000 miles economy, 38,000 miles business, 56,000 miles first

Well, as it turns out, you can redeem Qantas points for travel on EL AL to & from the US.

You can redeem Qantas points for EL AL flights to/from the US

You can indeed redeem Qantas points for travel to & from North America, though only by phone. Across the board this represents a better deal than booking through the EL AL Matmid program, regardless of what type of award you’re trying to book. Here’s the one-way distance based award chart for redeeming Qantas points on EL AL:

In terms of premium cabin redemption rates to & from the US, the following number of Qantas points are required for one-way tickets to/from Tel Aviv:

  • Boston, New York, Newark — 78,000 miles business, 114,000 miles first
  • Miami — 92,000 miles business, 134,000 miles first
  • Los Angeles — 104,000 miles business, 152,000 miles first

Those rates may not seem low, but they’re significantly lower than what EL AL charges through their program directly. As a point of comparison, here’s the number of points you’d have to transfer over from Amex Membership Rewards to EL AL Matmid to book the same awards:

  • Boston: 100,000 miles business class
  • Los Angeles: 112,500 miles business through October 28 (137,500 miles after that), 175,000 miles first
  • New York:100,000 miles business through October 28 (112,500 miles after that), 162,500 miles first
  • Newark: 100,000 miles business through October 28 (112,500 miles after that)
  • Miami: 130,000 miles business class, 168,750 miles first

The Qantas rates are certainly costs at which I’d consider booking EL AL for the convenience. 78,000 miles for business class on EL AL’s nice-looking 787 seems like a solid deal. And while EL AL’s first class redemption rates may not be great, 114,000 miles in first class isn’t an unreasonable amount to New York, for example.

I was surprised by Qantas’ call center

The Qantas Frequent Flyer call center has limited hours, as they’re only open from Monday through Saturday 7AM to 7PM AEST, which is 5PM to 5AM EST. On the plus side, they have a US phone number — (800) 227-4220 — though it connects to Australia.

Usually I’ve found Australians to be incredibly friendly, though the people I spoke to in this call center are an exception. I phoned up the number, followed the prompts for booking “Classic Rewards” (which I was doing). When I explained to the representative what I was trying to do, she simply said “wrong department,” put me on hold, and then eventually I was transferred to someone else.

I explained what I was trying to do. “Just send in the boarding pass.” “Sorry, I’m trying to redeem Qantas points for EL AL, and not earn them.” “Yeah, just send in the boarding pass, you can earn miles for all partner flights.” “No. I want to redeem.” “Oh, wrong department.”

I got transferred again. This time I was at least connected to the right department. I pulled up EL AL award availability on ExpertFlyer, and asked the representative about first class availability on a particular flight. She said she didn’t see it. I asked her to check around those dates. She said there’s nothing, but said that she saw economy and business class.

Then I tried to figure out whether she just didn’t see the availability on those flights, or whether Qantas doesn’t have access to EL AL first class tickets to the US. After saying that she didn’t see anything in first class, a minute later she said “I don’t see anything in economy or business, but I can do first class if you want.”

What the heck?!

Anyway, the moral of the story is that the call center experience is an adventure, but it does look like availability matches up with what EL AL’s own program has access to.

Bottom line

EL AL’s redemption rates through their own Matmid program are high, so it’s great to see that there’s a more attractive option for redeeming miles on EL AL. While EL AL doesn’t release that much business class award space, they are great about making first class awards available. While 114,000 miles one-way in first class from New York to Tel Aviv isn’t cheap, I think it’s something that many would consider for the convenience of flying nonstop in relative comfort. Otherwise redeeming 78,000 points for EL AL’s new business class seems like a solid deal too.

This is a very nice use of Citi ThankYou points!

(Tip of the hat to Andrew)

Comments

  1. Qantas call center sucks. Try Matmid Club, it’s only 5000 Matmid points for all-new Dreamliner business class from Newark to Tel Aviv!

  2. In Australia the Qantas call centre is available 24 hours. They have call centres in Johannesburg, Manilla and Hobart. If you have Qantas status you will be transferred to the Hobart call centre which I have always found to be extremely helpful and polite.

  3. QF call centres are terrible as the entire program. I was going to redeem for FJ flights (not many options around) and so collected some miles with QFF. I ended up redeeming my points on JAL which is not bookable online. Though over my 5-6 calls I had friendly agents the waiting time was always excessive (like 30-40 min). On top of that they charge you 6000 points extra for ANY BOOKING OVER PHONE no matter it’s not bookable online. Their online booking engine has very limited capabilities I would say. Not only it shows just about half of their partners, but also doesn’t let you to book from many airports (like you can book DXB-MRU, but cannot MRU-DXB + hundreds of airports are simply missing from online search form), so you have to call, so you have to pay extra 6000 miles. I asked the fee to be waived since JL awards aren’t bookable online and each of the agents I spoke politely refused.

    Long story short. If ElAl flights between the US and Israel aren’t bookable online then be prepared to pay extra 6000 miles for each ticket (be it one way or roundtrip).

  4. IME the call centre for reservations is 24h, just depending on when you call, you might get transferred to a diff call centre. I find the South African call centre to be the worst, the agents are as dumb as **** and I have had to really negotiate with them for basics. As far as the 6k phone fee, I have had luck getting it waived but not through the SA call centre, only the others, and it wasn’t easy.

  5. You have to keep in mind that El Al’s own Matmid program does offer periodic “redemption sales” that can offer unheard-of value. Some of these special deals are only available to Israeli members that hold El Al’s Israeli branded credit card. They also have a monthly buy one-get one birthday deal (buy one regular *discounted* coach/business ticket, get another for 100-300 points + taxes) with revolving destinations, including business class longhauls.

    Plenty of destinations for only 100 El Al points (+ fees) roundtrip through March, certain business redemptions to Europe for <800 points roundtrip. I believe Boston or Toronto are also on sale for 700 points roundtrip as well.

    But Qantas is undoudtedly the way to go when there aren't any redemption sales, and I will now start to consider Citi cards for the first time.

  6. Thanks for posting this new opportunity. What rate are fuel surcharges when redeeming via Qantas? And how long do Citi TY points take to transfer to Qantas?

  7. Hey Lucky –
    I’m surprised you didn’t yet cover the Ryanair pilot shortage fiasco. I was expecting you to write about that, and United’s 747 Retirement Flight which has been circulating in the news lately.

    Also, did you know Saudia’s ULCC Flyadeal has started operations? And that Saudia has begun privatization efforts?
    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170915-all-saudi-airlines-assets-are-to-be-privatized-before-the-end-of-2020/
    http://www.arabnews.com/node/1166196/business-economy

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