Monday, December 23rd, 2013, 3:35 am
Getting To Israel Using Starwood Starpoints
Getting To Israel Using Miles
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, availability can be very tough, partner award options are close to nil, the point system is confusing, and they charge a fuel surcharge (about $350 in total fees for North America-Tel Aviv) on redemptions to boot.
Adding insult to injury: They also charge $25 to join the program.
Apply for Matmid here though and use the following code to have the $25 fee waived: AOW24483828
You can also join for free via the AMEX Membership Rewards portal.
Why do you want to join if the program is so terrible, you ask?
First of all, they do run promotions that can be very good.
And you can get half off coach awards right now, so it’s just 700 points+$350 for a round-trip flight. 35,000 AMEX points transfer into 700 El Al points.
Second of all, if you are a member you will be able to check award availability online. You can use American 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+$350. You’ll have to transfer 250,000 American Express Membership Rewards points into 5,000 Matmid points. A terrible value compared to other lie-flat options on other airlines but on the upside El Al First Class award availability is generally very good and it’s the best kosher food in the sky (aside from having a flight attendant heat up a double wrapped meal from a place like Pomegranate).
Need AA miles?
You can signup for an AA credit card but you will do better spending money on the Starwood card as you can always transfer 20,000 Starwood points for 25,000 AA miles, so that 25% more bang for your buck. The Starwood AMEX gives 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 in 6 months. Plus AMEX runs simply 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 fly from North America to Tel Aviv nonstop on El Al for 45K each way in coach or 67.5K each way in business.
Or if you fly via Europe between October and May it’s just 40K each way, for example an American flight to Paris and then an El Al flight to Tel Aviv would be 40K off-peak. And you can stopover in Europe for as long as you want.
On top of that American also allows for free one-ways with a stopover even on a one-way flight. A one-way flight nonstop from Tel Aviv to JFK, stopping over in NYC for as long as you want, and then a flight from JFK to Alaska, Hawaii, LA, Miami, etc. is just 45,000 miles. The travel date of the “trailing” flight can even be changed for free.
The reverse works as well. Fly back from Hawaii to JFK, stopover in NYC for as long as you want, and then fly nonstop from JFK to Tel Aviv for just 45,000 miles.
More on that kind of fun stuff in my seminar in LA tonight 🙂