BOOKED: EL AL 787 Business Class & 777 First Class

Well, it’s finally happening, and I’m excited!

While actually visiting Israel has been on my radar for years, I’ve been going back and forth about redeeming miles on EL AL, given how outdated the products on their 777s and 747s look, and how high their redemption rates are.

El-Al-First-Class-101
EL AL’s 747 first class

Fortunately EL AL recently took delivery of their first Boeing 787, which features a great new business class product (it looks very similar to United’s new Polaris seat).


EL AL’s 787 business class

About a month ago I wrote about how I was in the process of planning my trip on EL AL. It ended up a bit differently than I was expecting, but it’s finally booked. I appreciate all the advice you guys have provided, as it has been invaluable. Here’s what I have planned.

I’m going to Israel with my mom

Originally my plan was to go to Israel with Ford early next year, though our travel schedule is pretty packed, and unlike me, Ford doesn’t like being on the road 24/7. Realistically it would have been next February before I was able to go with Ford, and I was hoping to review EL AL’s new Dreamliner before then.

However, when I told my mom about the trip she reminded me how it was always her dream to visit Israel, so this seemed like a great opportunity to take a trip with her. Hopefully Ford and I can still visit Israel together soon, but in the meantime this means that I get to go in November.

I’m flying EL AL’s 787 business class & 777 first class

EL AL will soon start flying their 787s between Newark and Tel Aviv, so I knew I needed to take that flight. I only wanted to fly it one-way, though, because I wanted to try EL AL first class in the other direction (particularly for the flight out of Tel Aviv, so I can review both their first and business class lounge).

The catch is that there was no award availability around our dates, so a paid ticket was the only real option. If I had just booked Newark to Tel Aviv nonstop, the ticket would have cost ~$4,452, which is more than the cost of a roundtrip ticket.

However, by instead starting in Toronto, the fare dropped down to a more reasonable ~$1,840. It’s still more than I’d usually want to pay for a ticket, but given the situation, it was the best option.

For the return I wanted to try EL AL’s 777 first class. EL AL’s 777 first class is in a 2-2-2 configuration, so the hard product isn’t even as good as their new business class. Nonetheless I was curious to experience it, given that EL AL first class is one of the few first class products I’ve yet to try.

So I redeemed 56,000 Qantas points to fly EL AL’s first class from Tel Aviv to London. There were no fuel surcharges, but just ~$30 in taxes and fees.

Our general plan for Israel

I’m so grateful for all the great (and at times conflicting — heh) advice you guys provided in my last post about our trip. In general I want to keep where we stay as simple as possible, so that it isn’t too exhausting on my mom. So based on all the advice I was given, I ended up deciding on three nights at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem (for which I redeemed 95,000 Honors points per night), plus four nights at the Sheraton Tel Aviv (using Citi Prestige’s fourth night free benefit).


Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

I realize there are things to see outside of those areas, though in the end it seemed best to try and see those as day trips, rather than switching hotels even more often. I had also considered the the Ritz-Carlton Herzliya (which looks beautiful but many said doesn’t have a great location for those trying to maximize their time), Elma Arts Complex Design Hotel (which also looks nice, but I feel like a day trip to the north would be better), and King David Hotel in Jerusalem (I’ve heard the views are great, though decided against it since I’d rather review a points property).

If I’ve made any grave mistakes with the initial planning, please let me know.

Bottom line

I can’t wait to visit Israel, as I’ve heard such great things. I’m also excited to fly EL AL, especially now that they have a new business class. I’m curious to see if the 787 business class ends up being better than their 777 first class, and how intense security and questioning is at Ben Gurion Airport.

Thanks again to everyone for their great advice!

Comments

  1. I’m quite looking forward to a review of Porter from YTZ, in addition to the rest of the trip – flew them a few years back and enjoyed the service.

  2. Great! You two will have so much fun! I can’t wait to hear about it 🙂

    And I noticed you are flying out of YTZ instead of YYZ. I hadn’t heard of that airport before, nor of Porter, the airline flying YTZ-EWR. Don’t show up at the wrong Toronto airport!

  3. About time!!! Can’t wait for the reviews of this trip! Please also do post a review of your flight on porter as you have never reviewed them yet.

  4. The city airport at Toronto is great fun – you can take a short ferry to reach it. And I thought Porter was pretty decent.

    I don’t envy you El Al’s “first class”, though.

  5. Tell us about the wine selection on both flights, it would be interesting to see if their selection is on par with other airlines since they are limited to kosher wines. I would also want to know if they offer champagne.

  6. Wait until you see the men in Tel Aviv. One of the sexiest cities I’ve visited. If you are still besotted with Ford after you leave it is definitely true love!

  7. You will get security questions both ways since you are flying El Al. (You will not just get them originating out of TLV).

  8. I recommend day trips to Haifa (from Tel Aviv) and the Dead Sea (from Jerusalem). If you want to visit any Palestinian cities in the West Bank other than Bethlehem, I highly recommend the tour company Green Olive Tours.

  9. Try to get to Baha’i gardens in Haifa.
    It’s beautiful and adjusent to ex-German colony which is now a preserved and reconstructed area leading to Baha’i gardens with a lot of nice restaurants…..

  10. Hi i feel there is a better option for booking at he Waldorf then to use 95k a night unless you don’t want to pay out of pocket. I come often and stay at the Waldorf and usually get around 40% off the base price so it usually comes out better with the miles u save and miles you earn to pay cash then to book on points. If there is a way we can be in touch I will gladly let you know how to do it and who my contacts are in he hotel that will hopefully be able to assist you.

  11. Watch the 8 Conan videos that were just posted on his trip to Israel, you can watch them on Facebook. Gives great perspective on the trip 🙂

  12. @ E — Because it would have been more points for the same award, not to mention there would have been higher fees.

  13. @ BrooklynBoy — Hah, yeah, the fare was only available out of YTZ and not YYZ. So it wasn’t convenient for connecting, but I guess I’ll spend a night in Toronto this way.

  14. The Westin Harbour Castle is a good Toronto hotel for the city airport. Get a high-up room on the lake side, and floor to ceiling windows give you a fantastic side-view of the flight path into the airport – a procession of cute Porter planes slowly dropping in front of you.

  15. Which passport are you going to use? Might be interesting to see what kind of screening you would get depending on what stamps you have.

  16. Hey Lucky,

    Can’t wait for your review!

    If you’re going to be Jerusalem over the Shabbat (Friday night – Saturday), I highly recommend going to the Western Wall on Friday evening at sundown as the Jews welcome in the Shabbat… Quite the most amazing and magical experience. This experience should not be missed!

  17. Definitely do as the previous commenter said and visit the Dead Sea from Jerusalem. You *literally* cannot sink and can walk in the water even after your feet no longer touch the sea floor. Don’t stay over night – surrounding area is desolate.

    I think the Waldorf is a good pick for Jerusalem, although keep in mind that the King David is where all VIPs and international statesmen (incl. U.S. presidents) stay. As for Tel Aviv, the Sheraton is starting to feel a little tired – I was just there. The Hilton or David InterContinental are better picks (although Sheraton is well located).

  18. After you experience the convenience of city island airport, you’ll understand why Porter is doing so well. YTZ is by far the best way to fly in and out of TO. For what it’s worth, I highly recommend taking the UP train from YYZ to downtown. I know you love uber, but traffic sucks.

  19. Please make sure to do a post about your experience both entering and existing the country. With the wide array of Arabic states you’ve been to, including “enemies” of Israel, stamped in your passport, it will be interesting to hear how extensively they interrogate you on arrival and exit. In my experience, I was interrogated even more strongly existing the country compared to entering, because of course they don’t want you hijaking a departing plane full of fuel more than they fear your arrival that has safely landed.

  20. I would strongly encourage you to book at least 1 night up north, as there is much more to experience there than a single day trip. And doing the travel from the center too north and back = 5 hours each time.

  21. Make sure you visit the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem. It was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at in the world. Very historic and well kept. Former British PM Tony Blair stayed there often. Located just a few blocks from the Old City. The rooms & bathrooms, especially the suites, are just exquisite.

  22. @Jacob – what are you talking about??

    Israel welcomes everybody & in fact one of the favorite places for gays worldwide..

  23. As Andy 11235 says, Porter is hella convenient. You’ll need to get from YYZ to YTZ, and as as Andy 11235 also says, traffic sucks, so if you plan to go by road, be sure to factor in traffic jams. I love Porter so much that I started flying from IAD instead of DCA, and IAD is VERY inconvenient for me to get to, but it’s so much more convenient once one lands in Toronto.

    You can take the ferry to YTZ or simply use the pedestrian tunnel, your choice; I always use the tunnel, but then, as a decrepit old man, I need the exercise.

    I LOVE Porter, though they’ll make you remove your headphones during takeoff and landing, but the people are friendly and the service is good. I’m actually more excited to hear your thoughts about Porter than I am about El Al! 🙂

  24. With a week in Israel, you’ll have time to do quite a few things. As others have said, it’s worth staying up north if you plan on visiting sites near there, like Acre, Rosh Hanikra, etc. Also I’d highly recommend a car for the days your travelling around the country. I’d return it before going to Jerusalem as it can be a pain with parking. Get Gett, the app, for Uber-esque travel within Israel regardless if you just use it in Jerusalem or also in Tel Aviv. It’s similar to Uber, which doesn’t do more than call a regular taxi for you.

    Good choice of hotel for Jerusalem. Not sure about Tel Aviv, as I’ve never stayed there.

  25. Glad to see you are making the trip. Lived in Israel for five years and loved every day of it – good or bad.

  26. I work at Porter – let me know if you have any questions 🙂

    ps. YTZ is under construction right now so it won’t be pretty

  27. Hi, Luckey,
    So Glad you are finally reviewing elal and visiting our bountiful country.
    Will you be in Israel November 13 ? I would like to invite you and your mom to the
    Israeli photography conference to be our guests of honor.
    Contact me regarding.
    Thanks
    Edo

  28. @Lucky, I’m so happy you got to read my comment on the last post. I was worried you already booked and missed out on what I thought was a better deal on LY. I haven’t been at YTZ and I heard you can either take the ferry across or the underground pedestrian walkway to the island. Porter operates it’s own lounge too which is available for all pax. Looking forward on your trip report on this one. Cheers!

  29. Of course Waldorf in Jerusalem is first class hotel, but I think 4 nights in Tel Aviv are too much, since Tel Aviv in the end is just another modern city.
    Usually folks taking the must day trip to dead sea from Jerusalem, and in your case you have only 3 nights for Jerusalem. It’s better to take that day trip from Tel Aviv (+1 hour driving each direction relative to Jerusalem).
    Assuming you have 3 days in Jerusalem so it’s: 1 day old city, 1 day Jerusalem city, 1 day areas around Jerusalem (Ein Karem etc.). In Tel Aviv: 1 day to dead sea, 1 day trip to North Israel, 2 days on the beach+shopping molls in Tel Aviv (and again it’s the same beach and shopping malls we all have everywhere).

  30. How are you going to be getting back to Los Angeles from LHR?

    I will make a few suggestions. You can fly on Aer Lingus from Dublin and you can also fly on Ethopian from Dublin to LAX.

    You can fly Norwegian premium class from LGW/CDG to LAX.

    Virgin Atlantic you have not reviewed in a while and could be nice from LHR.

    And then you got Air Tahiti Nui nonstop from CDG to LAX. You wanted to fly this airline last time and were not able to in the end.

    I hope you consider one of these options, and not the boring AA/BA/DL/UA.

  31. The Sheraton Tel Aviv is my first choice when I stay there. If there is anything special you need prior to your arrival contact the reservation manager Miri Kolodny. She will take good care of you. I’m going in December and spending my first two days there.

  32. I’m so looking forward to this trip and your review! It’d be lovely to also perhaps get a slight perspective from your mom? I’d be so interested especially in her views of which hotels she liked the best, how she felt, as a mom, of the EL AL screening, etc.

    So grateful for all the work you put into this wonderful blog.

  33. Lucky – feel to reach out if you if you’re interested in a good english speaking guide or any other advice. EL AL lounge in TLV is very nice!

  34. YAS SO EXCITED FOR YOU BENJAMIN!!!!!!!

    Although I would stay longer in Jerusalem area than TLV…but regardless will be great! Please make sure to report the entire experience (like the residence) from lounge, to onboard, immigration, everything, on Insta stories and here!

    Shalom!

  35. Good thing you are starting in YTZ instead of EWR (assuming you get your TLV boarding pass in YTZ). If you have to checkin with El Al in EWR you will before questioned by Israeli security officials before you can even approach the checkin counter. This happened to me at LHR and I was taken to a private room for further questioning and was only allowed to take my wallet and passport on the flight (I had to check everything) because I had Islamic stamps in my passport. Additionally, they are sometimes not so keen on US passports because, according to one security official who had to escort me to my seat in LHR, the US scrutinizes Israelis coming into the US, so they sometimes do the same back to Americans.
    Leaving TLV wasn’t too bad, but there were still a lot of questions about why I had travelled to the UAE, Morocco, Maldives, Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia and they checked my bag by removing everything but at least I was able to bring it onboard this time.

  36. Have fun with Israeli customs. With all your travel to the Middle East, I hope Immigraton is extensive for you.

    As a Jew, I don’t think you should be allowed entry with all the time you fly to the Middle East. Especially flying to Saudi Arabia.

    Shame on you!!!

  37. We stayed at exactly the same hotels in March.
    No view from the Waldorf, but, amazing service, gorgeous building and rooms. Tel Aviv Sheraton had a wonderful view, it seemed a bit dated, did the job, and the location is the best.
    The weather can be tricky in November. Especially Jerusalem, which can be surprisingly bitterly cold, so, be prepared. The cold winds can be something else. Kinda makes you wonder how they coped during Biblical times. Tel Aviv is generally pleasantly subtropical almost always.
    Service on El Al is patchy and inconsistent, and the butt of many jokes.
    A good private guide for historic sites is really worth the money, and can make a trip much more efficient, if not for you, maybe for your Mom.
    Praying all your travels are safe.

  38. Enjoy your trip…I strongly recommend staying at the Efendi in Akko… quite possibly one of the most unique and special hotels in Israel.

  39. @ Tomer

    Quite right. We should all only visit countries whose people are “just like us”. Definitely not travel to experience other countries, or to broaden our minds. No sirree. None of that liberal nonsense here. We should also have to state explicitly what our religious beliefs are on every immigration form. Including the exact particular flavour of theological dogma we support. Blimey…

    Though it’s also fascinating that you are actively wishing misery and harm on someone you’ve never met, and from whose blog you presumably derive pleasure. Spooky.

  40. Great @lucky, looking forward to your upcoming reviews of ElAl.
    Please take into consideration your future travel plans in regards to Passport Stamps.

    Having visited Israel, your are now longer able to enter UAE, Qatar and other Gulf-states.

  41. Benjamin, you have made a wise choice to go with mother, not Ford.

    2. Security smaa-curity. Oh boy, they invented it. But since you are with mother and don’t get security separated for questioning, it may be ok. Your passport could be very interesting to them with all your stamps.
    As tough as it was I tried to keep a sense of humor, of course to myself and not those checking me. I thought of the jokes Mel Brooks and Don Rickles made in the 1970’s, it helped lighten my burden.

    3. Once you get passed all that, get on the plane, arrive to Israel, it can be a wonderfully enlightening place to visit. Does not matter your religion or your beliefs, stuff we read about really happened there 2000 years ago. Unfortunately the blood spilled on that soil never settled and there is still a tremendous amount of anger there. Stay clear, be safe.

    4. Do visit the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. That is for real.

    5. Maybe, hopefully you will touched by the love that is there. In the afternoon you may witness a procession thru the old city, every day the Franciscan monks and other groups honor and pray along the path Jesus Christ walked to execution.

    Jerusalem can just be a tour, or it can be a lifetime experience.

    If you do pray, pray about it before

  42. Great news, the aviation community in Israel welcomes you warmly.

    I am a former aviation journalist here in Israel, I know some of my ex-collages would like to interview you, please let me know if you are interested.

    Regards, Jonathan

  43. @Lucky,

    I’ve travelled to Israel twice on a UK passport that had stamps/visas from various Muslim-majority countries (including Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Turkey).

    My advice would be to allow extra time both arriving at the gate for your flight from EWR and at Ben Gurion airport. You’ll likely get asked lots of questions, then they’ll go through your entire carry-on luggage.

    It wasn’t a bad experience – it just took a while. They were kind, courteous and careful with my belongings. So long as you’re patient and kind to them (I can’t imagine you wouldn’t be!), you’ll be fine! 🙂

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