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.
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)