Then and now: 6 ways in which El Al’s most historic route has improved in simply 2 years

Three years in the past, it was a uncommon sight to see an Israeli-flagged airplane parked proper subsequent to a sea of Emirates’ Airbus A380s.

Nevertheless, in August 2020, Israel and the UAE despatched shockwaves all through the Center East and past after they introduced they’d be normalizing ties as a part of a U.S.-brokered pact. One of many key tenets of the deal was establishing business flights between the 2 beforehand unconnected international locations.


4 months later the day had come — and I used to be there to witness all of it firsthand from El Al flight 977, the primary business flight to the UAE for Israel’s nationwide airline.

And practically two years since then, there are actually as much as 30 each day flights working between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

El Al, together with the 2 United Arab Emirates flag carriers, Etihad and Emirates, fly between the 2 international locations, and there are even a plethora of ultra-low-cost carriers competing on the roughly 1,320-mile route from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.


I used to be not too long ago in Tel Aviv for trip and wanted to get to the UAE for a piece occasion. Once I was determining how one can get there, I selected to fly with El Al, since it will give me a head-to-head comparability with my expertise on the identical historic route practically two years earlier.

This is how issues have modified.

The lounge is again

As Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) in Tel Aviv returns to pre-pandemic site visitors ranges, El Al has reopened its flagship King David Lounge within the departures corridor.


This two-story area is El Al’s solely lounge in Tel Aviv, and it options quite a lot of seating choices, in addition to a fairly intensive buffet. Along with a spread of tasty Center Japanese salads and dips, you possibly can take pleasure in freshly baked pizzas, soups and dessert desserts.

Join our each day publication

There’s even a walk-up wine bar that options some native labels, similar to Teperberg.

Earlier than the pandemic, El AL partnered with the Brown Motels group to open a pay-per-treatment spa within the King David Lounge. Sadly, this area remains to be shuttered. Nevertheless, the remainder of the lounge is again in enterprise.

It is price noting that the area can get fairly crowded throughout peak departure banks. I would advocate heading upstairs for a seat if you cannot discover one if you enter the decrease stage.

That mentioned, the King David Lounge is the airport’s nicest possibility for premium-cabin passengers, so it is nice to see it open as soon as once more.

Higher plane

When El Al launched business flights to Dubai, it flew the inaugural utilizing its short-haul workhorse, the Boeing 737-900 plane.

This airplane featured 16 business-class recliners and 159 economic system seats. Whereas the airline continues to function some Dubai frequencies utilizing the 737, it is flying its flagship plane, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, to the UAE as properly.

The Dreamliner affords a considerably higher onboard expertise. The business-class pods flip into lie-flat beds, and there is even a reasonably priced premium economic system cabin for these searching for a domestic-first-class-style expertise with out breaking the financial institution.

Even the economic system seats are upgraded with new cushioning and contoured headrests.

I booked a business-class ticket on my latest flight to Dubai, and I used to be overwhelmingly impressed with the Recaro CL6710 product. I used to be assigned a window-adjacent solo pod, which featured loads of privateness and storage.

Given the flight’s 5:30 a.m. departure time, I had no bother catching up on some sleep after changing the seat right into a mattress.

The Dreamliner’s onboard expertise was a night-and-day distinction relative to the El Al inaugural I took two years earlier. Should you’re planning to fly the route, I would extremely advocate choosing a frequency operated by an El Al 787.

Nevertheless, it is not simply El Al that is deploying its fanciest planes on these routes. Emirates now flies each day between Tel Aviv and Dubai on a Boeing 777-300, whereas FlyDubai operates some flights with its lie-flat-equipped Boeing 737 MAXes.

Whereas Emirates undoubtedly affords the most effective general premium expertise with its first-class product, the 2-3-2 business-class configuration pales compared to El Al’s 1-2-1 configuration, which affords direct aisle entry at each seat.

Fancier facilities

One other welcome enchancment that I skilled on my latest El Al flight to Dubai was the introduction of fancier facilities.

Maybe it was as a result of my flight was operated by a Dreamliner, which usually flies longer-haul missions, however ready at my seat throughout boarding was El Al’s signature pillow and cover made by Hollandia.


I even obtained a L’Occitane-branded amenity equipment, which included a deal with for aviation fanatics — a pair of airline-branded socks bearing the airport codes of an El Al route. (I obtained the intense orange Tel Aviv-to-Hong Kong pair.)


I additionally appreciated the small tubes of hand cream and lip balm, in addition to the single-use refreshing towel.


Once I flew the route again in 2020, I obtained an unbranded amenity equipment, stocked with socks, earplugs, a toothbrush and an eye fixed masks.

Inflight leisure for all

Along with the fancier seats on the Dreamliner, each flyer in all cabins received to take pleasure in a significantly better inflight leisure providing.


Every seat is supplied with a high-definition leisure display, which is loaded with a collection of motion pictures, TV reveals and video games. The transferring map is very customizable, and it even includes a new view that shows Jewish prayer occasions in line with the plane’s current location.

El Al’s 737s don’t have built-in seatback leisure. As an alternative, the provider put in pill stands in enterprise class that fold out from the middle console. These sitting on the pointy finish of the airplane obtain an iPad loaded with motion pictures and TV reveals to be used through the flight.


In the intervening time, solely El Al’s Dreamliners and Boeing 777 plane characteristic Wi-Fi connectivity powered by Viasat satellites. Whereas that might theoretically symbolize an improve over the unconnected Boeing 737 I flew again in 2020, El Al does not but provide web service on routes east of Israel.


That is as a result of Viasat hasn’t but launched its third-generation satellite tv for pc that is set to offer world connectivity. Nevertheless, it is price mentioning that I’ve obtained rave experiences from readers about El Al’s web service on transatlantic flights. Full flight plans that assist streaming value $24.99 on routes to North America.

Massive meals upgrades

Together with Israel dropping all COVID-19 restrictions, El Al has additionally introduced again its full onboard meal service, which I totally loved on my latest flight.

The breakfast entree choices have been both a tomato and cheese omelet or blintzes. I went with the latter, which was scrumptious.


The featured dish was served with a facet of pickles and tomatoes, some Center Japanese dips and salads, two miniature loaves of bread and a cheesecake dessert.


Whereas the meals itself was tasty, I additionally appreciated the fashionable crockery and the good presentation of all of the meal contents.


Again once I flew in 2020, no sizzling meals was supplied, and the meal — proven above — was introduced with the plastic overlaying intact. Even the bread rolls again then have been individually wrapped, so the enhancements to the meal service have been particularly noticeable.

A brand new everlasting routing

Because the crow flies, getting between Tel Aviv and Dubai requires flying proper over Saudi Arabia. That posed an issue for El Al for the reason that Kingdom traditionally did not permit Israeli-registered plane to make use of its airspace.

With out overfly rights, Israeli plane would wish to fly over the Crimson Sea and across the Arabian Peninsula to get to and from Dubai, tacking on additional hours and pointless gasoline burn. Nevertheless, UAE-based plane may transit over Saudi Arabia, placing Israeli airways at a major drawback.


Earlier than flights have been launched between Israel and the UAE in 2020, authorities authorities labored to safe these overfly rights with Saudi Arabia.

They did, however with an enormous situation — the overfly rights solely utilized to routes to and from the UAE and Bahrain. Different flights, like El Al’s service to Bangkok and Phuket, would nonetheless must divert round Saudi Arabia.


Two years later, nonetheless, there’s been extra diplomacy within the skies. Earlier this 12 months, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all Israeli plane underneath a pact brokered by the Biden administration.

This not solely is sweet information for the business feasibility of El Al’s UAE routes, nevertheless it additionally unlocks some key development alternatives for the airline, together with attainable locations in India and past.

Nevertheless, the feasibility of those routes relies on Tel Aviv additionally receiving overfly rights from Oman, which remains to be a piece in progress.

Backside line

For me, flying between Israel and the UAE on a nonstop El Al flight remains to be fairly surreal.

I am lucky to have taken the inaugural business flight between these two international locations through the peak of the pandemic in 2020, and I used to be nonetheless excited concerning the alternative to fly the route once more two years later.


This time, the expertise was considerably extra nice. For one, I did not have to fret about onerous COVID-19-related restrictions.

Additionally, the flight itself — from the time within the King David Lounge to the Dreamliner’s spectacular onboard expertise — was so significantly better than spherical one.


The subsequent time I fly the route, I would love to present Emirates firstclass a strive. Nevertheless, with an outdated 2-3-2 configuration in enterprise class, El Al’s Dreamliner undoubtedly looks like the way in which to go in should you’re flying in enterprise.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button