With American, Delta, and United offering some fantastic business class bargains between NYC and Tel Aviv, I figured I’d do a quick comparison between the airlines’ seats that require a left turn upon boarding.
El Al hasn’t matched these fares and I haven’t flown El Al as their mileage program seems to have been designed by people that hate their customers, so I can’t write about them yet. Plus, El Al is not terribly convenient for people originating in a city without El Al service. But the airline is under new ownership and hopefully things will change for the better.
Delta flies from JFK to Tel Aviv with either an A330-300 with their old reverse-herringbone business class product or A330-900s with their newer business class suites.
I flew Delta A350 suites to Amsterdam and thought they were nice, but far from perfect.
The A350 is several feet wider than the A330, so the A330 suites will be narrower than the A350 suites as they both have the same 1-2-1 configuration. I would have loved to see Delta put their A350 flagship on the JFK-TLV route, but JFK isn’t an A350 base for Delta.
The Delta One Suites cabin is certainly aesthetically pleasing, here it is on the A350:
While the suites themselves are nice, personally I don’t like that Delta uses leather seats in business class, which I find to be very uncomfortable for sleeping. Delta also doesn’t provide a mattress pad as airlines like American and United do. In general I found United’s Polaris seat for be more comfortable for sitting and sleeping and to have better bedding than Delta, but the privacy door is a nice addition to a business class seat.
I flew in the bulkhead and in general, business class bulkhead seats have more legroom/footwell room, but they are also noisier and brighter, so there’s a trade-off with those seats.
I haven’t flown Delta to Israel since 2009 as they’re typically stingy with award space, but partner saver availability is now excellent.
United flies their new Polaris business class product on both the 787-10 and 777-300ER from Newark to Tel Aviv.
I wrote about the 777 Polaris class product from when we flew from Newark to Tel Aviv in this Herzliya trip report.
I flew the 787-10 back from Tel Aviv and found the seats to be narrower than the 777, but still decent.
A nice feature of Polaris is that you can choose from solo seats or seats for people traveling together.
Polaris business class seats include United’s newly launched Polaris business class service with Saks Fifth Avenue bedding and pillows. Savvy travelers will also request a Saks Fifth Avenue mattress pad, gel cooled pillow, slippers, and pajamas, as those are not proactively offered by flight attendants as there aren’t enough of them for everyone.
Solo window 777 seat:
Solo window 787 seat:
Thanks to United’s bedding, I find this to be the best US airline business class offering.
“Couples” seats with the divider down:
United’s Polaris lounges are also fantastic as I reviewed in this Rome trip report, though those are currently closed due to the pandemic.
Kosher meals are typically horrendous and I’m not going to bother comparing the food offerings, but United is working to improve kosher meals on their Tel Aviv routes. You can read my interview with United about their improved kosher meal offerings here.
American offers 2 potential business class products on their 777-200s that will fly to Tel Aviv, reverse herringbone or a business class with mixed rear facing and forward facing seats. The reverse herringbone is more common, but you won’t know which cabin you’ll actually get until a couple of days before the flight. If you see notches on some of the seats in the seat map, then you’ll know you have been assigned the business class with rear facing seats.
I haven’t flown the rear facing product, but the reverse herringbone is a perfectly fine business class seat and from what I understand the rear facing product is fine as well. I do miss United’s Polaris more luxurious bedding though.
American hasn’t flown to Israel since January 2016, but they will launch service from JFK on May 6th. I was booked to fly American in 2015 with miles, but due to flight delays we were moved to United for the outbound flight.
Infants on a plane:
I’m a big proponent of infants having a car seat on a plane. Your arms can’t hold onto objects during clear-air turbulence and the FAA doesn’t allow you to hold a bag or laptop during takeoff or landing. We once used a bassinet when we first flew to Hawaii when our oldest was a newborn and it was a disaster. The bumpy flight meant that he wasn’t secured at all in it, and we had to hold him whenever the seatbelt light went on. Never again. The safest option is buckled in a car seat.
Aside from the safety aspect, young children in a car seat are more likely to sleep on a plane and you won’t have to hold them for countless hours or stop them from opening the airline seatbelt.
If you are bringing infants or toddlers in a car seat, keep in mind that Delta One Suites is also the only business class cabin between NYC and Tel Aviv approved for car seats. Not all flight attendants know this, but if they say that it’s not allowed, just have them message headquarters to confirm the rule as DDF member D93 recently did when flying Delta One Suites from Tel Aviv to JFK.
Overruled by replay headquarters:
I have had luck bringing car seats on many United Polaris flights, but officially they are not allowed. Personally I’ve gambled and won each time by picking the forward facing Polaris seats.
American and El Al’s seatbelts have large built-in airbags that aren’t compatible with car seats. While they can technically add a seatbelt extender to disable the airbag, it still won’t fit the car seat well and the flight attendants are not likely to allow it.
Which business class product is actually best will be highly subjective.
That’s also because service from US carriers can be all over the place. I’ve had incredible and horrendous business class flight attendants on all 3 of these airlines. And the truth is, your experience will be most impacted with how great or poor your crew is, which is a complete wild card. A surly crew will ruin even the most comfortable business class seat, while a crew that provides great service will have you gloss over deficiencies.
I have also been able to get flight attendants on all 3 of these airlines to warm up my own double wrapped restaurant food, but I have also been denied by other flight attendants on all 3 of these airlines. Don’t expect consistency, but if your kosher meal looks particularly bad or if the airline forgot to load it, then it will be much easier to get them to warm up your own meal.
In the end, there isn’t a huge difference as they’re all great business products with direct aisle access and I’d gladly fly any of them. However I have absolutely rotten luck when it comes to American flights with countless rolling delays and flight cancellations, so I try to look for other options when possible.
My personal preference would probably be United. But what it will really come down to for most people though is the fares or mileage availability on their desired dates, the proximity of the airport served, and which mileage program they prefer.