Next Stop, The Holy Land

El Al introduces year-round nonstop service from LAX

By: Norman Sklarewitz

With many airlines cutting back on frequencies, the travel community got a welcomed bit of news on July 23. El Al Israel Airlines launched its new year-round nonstop service between Los Angeles International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. The run is the only nonstop between the two cities and is operated with the new 286-seat Boeing 777. For two summer months in the past, El Al offered a nonstop service between LAX and TLV but dropped the run in 2001.

The new nonstop flights will operate out of LAX three times a week Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Departure from LAX is at 12:20 p.m., with arrival in TLV at 12:50 p.m. the next day. Return flights will depart Tel Aviv the same days leaving at 1:15 a.m., and arriving in Los Angeles the same day at 6:45 a.m.

Additionally, El Al will operate a one-stop (Toronto International) run on Monday and Wednesday, using the 200-seat 767 until Aug. 30. On that date, the one-stop run will be terminated, but the 777 nonstop will continue three times a week. As demand builds, El Al hopes to have a fourth nonstop on the run next spring and a fifth by the summer.

Configuration of El Al’s 777 is six seats in first class, 20 in business and 180 in coach. In-flight amenities on the new triple-seven include lie-flat beds in first and almost fully reclining seats in business with Wi-Fi likely to be available on all flights as the service is rolled out. All seats are equipped with personal video screens on seat backs. First- and

business-class seats are also equipped with 15-volt power ports for laptop usage. (Adaptors provided, if needed.)

Details on the new service were presented to area travel agents and tour operators at a pre-launch reception hosted by Israel Borovich, chairman of El Al Israel Airlines and Michael Mayer, CEO of El Al for North and Central America. Bill Gale, regional manager for the 13 Western states, said that agents and tour operators accounted for some 90 percent of El Al’s bookings.

Since being privatized last year, major investments are being made by El Al’s new management. According to Borovich, these include some $25 million to be spent on upgraded information technology.

“In the past we didn’t move fast enough in this area,” he said.

Starting this year and into 2007, passengers will see such improvements as self-service check-in kiosks and more Internet services.

Passengers will also see a “big improvement” to in-flight food services, the El Al executive said. This includes an expanded menu beyond the customary in-flight kosher meals.

Not necessarily seen by passengers, but vital all the same, are El Al’s high standards for security. Borovich told reporters at a press conference that El Al spends some $50 million on security a year, a figure that adds from $30 to $50 per ticket. It was also confirmed to TravelAge West that at LAX with TSA permission, El Al conducts all passenger baggage screening with its own proprietary equipment.

In addition to the new LAX-TLV service, on March 28, El Al began nonstop service between Miami and Tel Aviv each Tuesday and Saturday. In addition, the carrier offers direct flights out of Chicago, and has 16 nonstops a week out of JFK and eight a week from Newark International.