In July 2009, I journeyed to Israel and Egypt with my brother and uncle. My uncle and I traveled together in first class and the trip report below will highlight some of the flights we sampled.
New York to Zürich in Swiss International Air Lines First Class
Zurich to Tel Aviv in EL AL Israel Airlines Business Class
Cairo to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class
Frankfurt to Denver in Lufthansa First Class
Because we had arrived in Zürich two hours late thanks to a mechanical delay at JFK, Swiss (LX) had rebooked my uncle and me on a EL AL flight to Tel Aviv. Although we had a first class seat on the now departed LX flight to TLV, EL AL operates a 737-800 on the route with only two cabins of service. Thankfully, we were allocated the last two business class seats on the plane, but they were in row one (row 10 on EL AL), which meant reduced legroom. The seat itself was a recliner-style international business class seat with about 150º of recline and a footrest (that the bulkhead prevented from being extended all the way).
We were driven from the Swiss First Class lounge to the EL AL gate about 45 minutes prior to departure, a little early I thought, until I remembered that we had to be interviewed by Israeli behavior profilers before boarding. This was my first trip to Israel so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the interview was painless. I had to answer questions about why I was traveling to Israel, if I knew anyone there, what I would do when I was there, and whether I had packed my own bags.
No personal greeting or any sort onboard and the crew seemed frantic to get everyone seated and prepared for departure. In fact, there was no crew interaction of any sort until after we took off. Once airborne, menus were distributed along with a package of nuts, a few amenities (toothbrush, toothpaste, eye shade, and ear plugs) and a choice of beverage.
Shortly thereafter, meal service began from a cart. I chose halibut, which turned out to be very delicious. Warm bread, hummus, tomatoes, and eggplant made for a perfect accompaniment to the halibut.
I was a little disappointed that everything, including the chocolate cake for dessert, was served on a single tray, but the food seemed to be of high quality and I polished off all of it (save for the olives).
No personal IFE on the flight either, but my understanding is that EL AL now offers personal media players for sale in economy and complimentary to business class passengers. An American movie played on the overhead monitors.
After the meal service the flight attendants disappeared and only briefly reappeared as we neared Tel Aviv to distribute the in-flight gift. Each passenger in business class received sunglasses in a plastic EL AL case with a coupon saying that if we did not like them, we could trade them in for $50 credit toward the glasses of our choice. An address and telephone number was listed where the exchange could be made.
We soon landed and taxied to the gate at TLV. While I wasn’t thoroughly impressed with the service onboard, the food was great and the flight crew was efficient. I had finally reached Israel!