April 25th, 2012
El Al has a fairly terrible frequent flyer program (which is why I’m not a fan of the HAS credit card for example).
Points from flights expire after 3 years, redemption rates are poor,
you can’t redeem points on any partners, and they charge a fuel surcharge ($349 in total fees for JFK-TLV) on redemptions to boot. al613 points out in the comments that you can actually redeem for travel on AA now, though the rates are exorbitant.
Adding insult to injury: They also charge $25 to join the program.
Use this link however and you’ll be able to join for free and you’ll get 64 points for signing up. (A “free” JFK-TLV flight starts at 1,400 points)
Why do you want to join if the program is so terrible, you ask?
Primarily because if you are a member you are able to check award availability online. You can use AA miles to book El Al flights, but that must be done by calling AA. Best of all AA allows you to even book one-way awards on El Al AND they don’t charge a fuel surcharge for redeeming miles to fly on El Al!
I know someone is going to ask this, so I’ll preempt them, no you can’t use British Airways Avios to travel on El Al. Period, end of story.
Bear in mind that AA can only book coach and business seats on El Al. If you want to fly in First Class you will need 5,000 Matmid points+$349. You can transfer 250,000 American Express Membership Rewards points into 5,000 Matmid points. A terrible value compared to the 120K that United charges in business class (or the 135K Membership Rewards points that you can transfer to Air Canada to book you on United or USAirways with no fuel surcharges), but on the upside El Al First Class award availability is generally very good.
Need AA miles?
You can signup for an AA credit card, however that card has become very difficult to churn and you will do better spending money on the Starwood card as you can always transfer 20,000 Starwood points for 25,000 AA miles. The Starwood Consumer AMEX and the Starwood Business AMEX both give 25,000 bonus Starpoints for opening them up and spending $5,000 in 6 months (browse incognito or delete cookies if you do not see the 25K offer). Plus AMEX runs incredible promotions year round that easily make up for the $65 annual fee (which is waived the first year anyway) and they have top-notch return and warranty protections.
You can book a one-way between Israel and the following zones (For Coach, Business, and First) for the following amounts (you can mix and match OneWorld and non-alliance partner airlines like El Al on the same ticket with this award chart):
-North America (Including Hawaii, as AA counts Hawaii as part of North America for intercontinental awards which can make a Buenos Aires-Honolulu ticket in May be fewer miles (20K) than Los Angeles-Honolulu (22.5K) and you can “stopover” in New York on the way back from Tel Aviv and book a JFK-Honolulu flight for anytime in the future for free and you’ll be able to change the dates for free as well): 45K, 67.5K, 90K
-Europe: 20K, 30K, 40K.
-Asia: 22.5K, 30K, 45K
-India/Middle East: 17.5K, 25K, 35K
-Africa: 30K, 45K, N/A
-South Pacific: 30K, 45K, 60K
-South America Zone 1: 60K, 82.5K, 102.5K
-South America Zone 2: 67.5K, 90K, 110K
Because the way the chart is set up, sometimes it is cheaper to book a flight stopping in Europe during off peak periods (10/15-04/15 annually) for 40K instead of 45K from the US-Israel. You won’t be able to go nonstop from the US to Israel for 40K…but you can check out any European city for as short or long as you want, or just use it as a connection point.