One of the most popular requests of my award booking service is getting to Israel in premium cabins–often for families of 2-5 people–which can be a challenge with miles. Add to that, that often they don’t contact me until a few months before travel, and it really becomes a challenge.
First of all, very few airlines fly directly to Israel in business class, and those flights generally have few problems selling out–which means airlines don’t want to make seats available for awards. Airlines flying directly from the US to Israel are:
- Delta (from JFK)
- El Al (from JFK, Newark and LAX)
- United (from Newark)
- US Airways (from Philadelphia)
Realistically, you’re not likely to find much space on the direct flights this year–and very little even next year. There may be a date here and there, but I’d be very surprised if it could be done on any kind of round trip basis.
So that brings me to my two secret weapons for this type of routing.
1. Using British Airways to get to London/Europe, connecting to El Al to Tel Aviv.
One of American’s lesser-known partners is El Al since they’re not a member of the Oneworld alliance.
And their award space from the US to Israel isn’t so hot on the direct flights…
BUT, connecting space from London, and other European gateways isn’t so bad:
and that matters because 1) British Airways generally has excellent award space last minute–and this summer is becoming very last minute, and 2) AA miles are exceptionally easy to earn right now with the 100k bonus Citi Executive card.
So you partner up BA’s excellent trans-Atlantic availability and El Al’s great Europe-Israel availability, and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid itinerary minus two drawbacks:
- BA fuel surcharges – Yes, these stink. But you’re talking about planning a trip on only a few week’s notice at this point, and overall, it’s still a really good deal when you are talking about business class tickets and such great availability.
- Transferring in London-Heathrow. I’d probably rather change terminals in Mogadishu.
2. Fly Air France and transfer in Paris.
Air France trans-Atlantic availability has gotten much better now that Delta doesn’t have access to all Air France award space. At this point, the most common way to book Air France flights is with their own FlyingBlue miles, but Alaska miles are also a great option, and Korean Air is also worth considering as well given the relative ease of earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Availability isn’t quite as good as with BA/El Al in the sense that while it’s about equal right now in terms of number of days from the city pairs I looked at (Miami, DC, NYC), Air France doesn’t reliably open as much last minute space as BA. That said, it’s bookable without fuel surcharges when you book with Alaska, and even when you book with FlyingBlue, the surcharges are still only about half as bad as BA’s.
All of that said, the best advice I can give for Israel flights is to book in advance. Here’s the Star Alliance availability (via the United.com search tool) for next Spring as of today. Washington to Tel Aviv for 2 passengers [yellow means economy only; green means economy + biz/first]:
If you’re flexible with dates, you may even be able to find space on the direct flights with El Al [Delta and United much less likely]:
Hopefully this helps if anybody is still looking to book some last minute Summer travel to Israel!