This morning was the first opportunity to get a look at the new non-stop Boston-Tel Aviv airfares on El Al. After years of lobbying, El Al added three non-stop flights per week to Israel from Logan, with flights beginning in June. Outgoing flights leave Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 9:00 pm, arriving in Tel Aviv at 3:10 the next afternoon, and inbound flights depart Tel Aviv at 12:30 am, arriving in Boston at 5:45 am the same day.
For travelers weary of early dawn sleepwalking through Rome, London, and Zurich, or tired of the JFK/Newark/Philly add-on leg, these flights offer the quickest and most convenient option for getting to and from Israel. The eastbound flight is estimated to take 11 hours, 5 minutes, with the return leg clocking in at 12 hours, 15 minutes. If you can arrange your trip to get on the thrice-weekly non-stops, this should guide some of your planning. If you can’t, but still want to fly El Al, feel free go through JFK or Newark, but good luck with those terminal transfers and endless lines at customs- I’ll stick with a Philly or European connection.
Here’s an initial take on the El Al fares compared to the rest of the market. Keep in mind that I didn’t search for every possible variation on departure dates, and also keep in mind that the Thursday and Sunday flights will be more expensive given the need by some travelers to complete travel before Shabbat, or leave right after Shabbat is over.
For a trip from July 14-July26, the El Al fare on the non-stop was $1399 RT, which was the lowest fare I found. Air Canada had a $1402 fare, but that trip requires a four-hour detour to Toronto, and Delta’s $1412 might look competitive, but it necessitates the horror that is JFK Immigration.
Recommendation: El Al
Later on in summer, though, Air Canada via Toronto prices out at $1372 for an August 6-20 itinerary, with El Al coming in at $1482. The European carriers all check in somewhere around $1450, but why deal with Alitalia unless it’s a total emergency?
Recommendation: El Al. The Toronto hassle is probably worth spending $100 to avoid.
For a September 17-October 1 itinerary, El Al shows a $1039 fare, but Turkish Airlines offers an $813 fare that is very tempting with a gorgeous pair of departure times- 11:45 pm out of Boston, 9:50 am out of Tel Aviv, dropping you at Logan at a very reasonable 5:00 pm.
Recommendation: Turkish Airlines, if for no other reason than a 9:50 am flight out of Tel Aviv is a real treat.
If you’re planning a post-Sukkot trip to Israel, a trip from October 6-20 will cost you $1187 on El Al. That’s a decent fare for fall, but when juxtaposed with $862 on Turkish Air, it’s a tough sell. In between those two, Lufthansa also has a $989 fare, but that drops you in Tel Aviv at 11:00 pm, which is far from ideal.
Recommendation: Turkish Airlines
Want to get away for Thanksgiving? A November 19-29 trip weighs in it at a lovely $899 on El Al. Searches show some $700-$800 fares via Istanbul and Europe, but the flight schedules are nightmarish and include a handful of 12-14 layovers. Not want you want.
Recommendation: El Al
In December, it’s all about the departure date. For a trip from December 15-29, the El Al flight checked in at a very attractive $937 round trip, but for a December 17-29 trip it leaps to $1563. Also, a December 22-31 booking on El Al ran to $1482, as compared to $1005 via Istanbul. The caveat here is that some airlines won’t post these flights and fares until early February, so hang on until you get more comparison fares.
Recommendation: Wait…. but grab a good fare if you see it. Leave a few days before vacation to grab a good El Al fare, or shop around for a decent fare if your departure dates aren’t flexible.
In general, Turkish stacks up very favorably to El Al and in many cases offers a superior fare with convenient times. Case in point: you can get a round-trip fare to Tel Aviv via Istanbul next month for less than $700. In most summertime comparisons, though, El Al is very competitive, at times shows the best fare, and is always the only non-stop option. For now, my advice is to start juxtaposing the Turkish and El Al flights, and personally, I’ll keep throwing the USAir Philly-Tel Aviv fare in for comparison, as it is currently the best non-New York, non-European connection out there.
With that being said, given the current state of Turkish-Israeli relations and the general atmosphere in Turkey today, I do feel conflicted about flying Turkish. But in the end, money
sometimes always usually talks.
Search often, and fly safely.