As demand for air travel continues to break records around the world, the fierce competition to take advantage of the unprecedented number of passengers is not showing any sign of slowing down.
Some 22.3 million passengers passed through Ben-Gurion Airport in 2018, over 10% more than in 2017. Both incoming and outgoing tourism reached new heights last year, buoyed by an increasing range of services offered following the open skies agreement between Israel and the European Union.
It is therefore no surprise that national Israeli carrier EL AL is constantly being kept on its toes, significantly expanding its route network and investing significant sums in renewing its fleet for both short-haul and long-haul destinations to cater to increased demand.
“Wherever there is market demand and we see potential, we are there to provide a solution to our clients, to their needs, and to open a nonstop route from the destination to Tel Aviv,” Yoram Elgrabli, EL AL Israel Airlines VP North and Central America, told The Jerusalem Post.
“We are approaching and reaching out to all types of passengers, including tourists, pilgrims, business and government travel, and other special programs that work with us, such as Birthright and Passages Israel.”
During 2019 alone, EL AL will add new nonstop routes to Israel from San Francisco, Las Vegas, Orlando, Manchester and Nice. The carrier will also add a fourth weekly flight from Miami later this year and is preparing to launch three weekly flights from Chicago in 2020, the only nonstops to Israel from the Midwest.
EL AL will also welcome another six Dreamliners by the end of 2019, bringing their total active Dreamliner fleet to 14 out of the 16 advanced aircraft purchased for more than $1.25 billion. By the end of the year, the average age of the aircraft’s fleet is expected to decrease to under 10 years for the first time
“Our clients come from all 50 states in the US. We have codeshare agreements with JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, which allow us to bring passengers from all over the country to our gateways and then take them nonstop to Israel,” said Elgrabli.
“The jewel in the EL AL crown is the Dreamliner. We purchased 16 of them, and most of the destinations in North America are operated by brand new Dreamliners, featuring three service classes: business class, premium class and economy class.”
For Elgrabli, flying EL AL also means commencing your visit to Israel when you step onboard the aircraft.
“To fly on the Israeli carrier is natural when you are flying to Israel. EL AL provides you with an Israeli experience ranging from culture, food and service to safety, security, pilots and flight attendants. We have are very proud of our product and receive great feedback from our clients,” said Elgrabli.
“Even before the flight, we offer a lounge for First and Business Class passengers and have our own lounges at New York’s John F. Kennedy and Newark International Airports, and at other destinations, lounges are shared with leading carriers.”
Additional reforms carried out by EL AL in recent months include simplifying the point accrual method of its Matmid Frequent Flyer Club for flights departing as of April 1. Points are now based on the fare of the flight ticket with members of higher Matmid club tiers earning even more.
In recent months, EL AL appointed Israeli chef Shahaf Shabtay as its head chef to upgrade in-flight food served in all classes. Shabtay, who grew up in Kibbutz Amiad, is currently head chef at Tel Aviv’s renowned Nithan Thai restaurant.
“Whether we’re operating in San Francisco, Las Vegas or Chicago, we’re always made to feel very welcome. Every destination caters to all our needs in terms of infrastructure, and they know that we are also generating more traffic for their city, with many tourists arriving from Israel,” said Elgrabli.
While busy developing the carrier’s aircraft and onboard offerings, EL AL is keen to emphasize both the innovative and historical nature of the key product at the end of its route: Israel.
“Israel is a hotspot of technology as well as history and culture. As a tourist, I would love visit all of the country’s historic locations, whether it’s Jerusalem, Masada, Caesarea or the Sea of Galilee,” Elgrabli said.
“It’s a small country, but in the North you can ski on the Hermon, and snorkel with dolphins in Eilat in the South. There are almost 200 kilometers of beautiful beaches from Rosh Hanikra to Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Ashkelon. Whatever you desire is available and accessible.”
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