United’s Managing Director For Israel: Stay Tuned For New Tel Aviv Routes And Plane Upgrades!

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Continental’s former CEO Larry Kellner, who was sacked for refusing to merge with United, was quoted as saying that Newark-Tel Aviv was their most profitable route.

USAirways’ then president Scott Kirby called Philadelphia-Tel Aviv among the most lucrative routes in their network, before American merged with USAirways and suddenly axed the route, citing alleged poor route performance. Mr. Kirby jumped ship and is now the effective CEO of United.

Last year United upgauged the redeye flight between Newark and Tel Aviv from a Boeing 777-200 (772) to a 777-300ER (77W). That flight went from 50 business seats and 217 coach seats to 60 business seats and 306 coach seats.

United launched their San Francisco to Tel Aviv route on 3/30/16 with 3 weekly flights and the route was so successful that they increased it to daily flights in October 2016. United is upgauging that route from a 787-8 to a 77W from May through October. That flight will go from 36 business seats and 183 coach seats to 60 business seats and 306 coach seats.

Avi Friedman, United’s Managing Director in Israel, has some interesting quotes in the Israeli press today.

Globes is reporting that the San Francisco upgauge is apparently due to the Newark flights being so full that there is more capacity needed for summer travel from the west coast to Israel.

The Newark flight is doing so well that United is looking into upgauging the afternoon flight to Israel from the 772 to the 77W. That will add an additional 99 daily seats to the route. That’s good news for business class passengers and bad news for coach passengers, though perhaps the additional space will create downward pressure on pricing.

PassportNews is reporting that Avi Friedman also said that in the not too distant future there will be a new United destination in the US besides for Newark and San Francisco! He refused to say what the destination might be.

Ever since the Continental-United merger I’ve been saying that a Chicago-Tel Aviv route would make perfect sense. When I went to a United DO at their headquarters in Chicago’s Willis Tower in 2012 I met with Brian Znotins, who was then VP of United’s network strategy, but has now moved onto WestJet. At the time United only flew from Newark to Tel Aviv and on DDF we had some lively discussions about a United flight from Chicago or San Francisco to Tel Aviv.

He told me that there was a lot of internal debate on that very topic as the revenue guys thought that there was going to be a lot of business class travel between San Francisco and Tel Aviv while the network planning guys think Chicago would make more logical sense as more traffic from across the country can feed into it. Of course a 3rd daily flight out of Newark can also make sense as that grabs traffic from NYC as well as the entire country.

In the end San Francisco won out and has outperformed United’s expectations. If United moves Newark-Tel Aviv to 2 daily 77Ws they will have effectively added the capacity that a 3rd daily flight on that route would have done.

United’s remaining hubs are:

  • Guam, zero demand for a flight to Israel.
  • Houston, good business community, but small Jewish population and more of a hub for Latin America.
  • Denver, small Jewish population and not ideally positioned for a flight to Israel
  • Los Angeles, a smaller United hub with competing nonstop service from El Al and it would be redundant on a coast where United already has a nonstop flight to Israel.
  • Washington DC/IAD, not a bad option, but it’s too close to Newark and the massive capacity that United has from there to Israel. It would be redundant for United to have 2 East Coast cities with service to Israel.

In my mind, all that’s missing is the announcement for Chicago-Tel Aviv service. Chicago is a massive hub for United and is getting even bigger with the airport expansion plans there. It’s also centrally located to pickup feed from just about everywhere in between the west coast and the east coast, and it has a large Jewish community.

At that point El Al would have to decide whether they want to fight United for Chicago market share or whether to launch service to Baltimore/Washington DC. Or El Al could try to steal United’s thunder by announcing a Chicago flight before they do.

Either way, I’d be shocked if at least one US city doesn’t get a new Tel Aviv route announcement this year.

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60 Comments On "United’s Managing Director For Israel: Stay Tuned For New Tel Aviv Routes And Plane Upgrades!"

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Every airline that flies into TLV from anywhere in the world states that TLV is consistently their busiest route.


You don’t think CLE-TLV flights are coming? Not even with the new $28 voucher to BarSymon?


I support Denver!!! I would use it for a couple of round trips a year.


I think you grossly underestimate the demand for more nonstop flights from LAX.


Only 20% of all travelers to Israel are Jewish so I would not focus (as this article did) on Jewish presence. Chicago could be a great choice as it offers massive amounts of connecting passengers plus the large local pretense.


בשביל להוסיף עוד טיסה. מדינת ישראל תבקש קודם מחברת תעופה אל על להוסיף טיסה. אחרת הם לא יאשרו

Different Dan

No chance for Guam?


+1 for Guam


Years ago, Baltimore used to have el al flights coming and going to Israel. That would be a dream come true for many in the Baltimore-dc metropolitan area to have such a flight to Israel instead of the three hour commute to Newark..


If the market is so lucrative I don’t see why Delta doesn’t have a direct flight from Atlanta (only from NYC) or American doesn’t have a direct flight at all. Leaving it all to United and El Al doesn’t make sense


What about Mia or fll?

Judy Jones

I was just going to bring up the same point. No real United Hub down here. I am not Jewish, but would love to visit the Holy Land without multiple connections. Cheapest option is Air Canada via Toronto!


My prediction?



Love it


I believe an Delta Atlanta-TLV route would be a huge success for Delta. They had that route for several years, it was always full and so many flights connect to atlanta delta can charge a premium. Much better option than Miami (1.5 hrs shorter flight time)

Rabbi Nate

Although Chicago has a larger orthodox community Houston has a larger Jewish population when you include conservative and reform. Literally 10’s of thousands of Jews. Add the evangelicals and large local Israeli populations plus United’s hub in Bush which connects anyone from Central America to Israel. I think you’re underestimating Houston.


According to the some insiders in the Hebrew speaking office in Houston (knew that it exists?), Houston is on top of the list. Being a major hub in a major evangelical population means high demand.


I think BWI (Baltimore) is either 1 or 2 on the list. The proximity to DC makes it most sense. All the diplomats (congressman, senators, knesset members) who fly to DC do not want a stop over in NY or take a train to Newark.


cannot even knowing you that well but following your website for a few years when do you get the time to read all this stuff? do you have a kindle? when you sit down to read are you able to block everything out and enjoy a book( without thinking about the 15 fairmont accounts, 2 or 4 chase accounts, amex spg american airlines united delta jet blue all the refferall credits from takeout food websites and silverware the free night certificates that expire the points that can expire the website etc )like when you were a child and had no worries? i have trouble doing that in my life with everything that goes on how do you manage to do it I’m just curious so i can apply your strategies


By the way, senior UAL executive, Mr. Dave Hilfman (ex-CAL) has also been an internal
champion of an expansion of routes/aircraft/capacity to Tel Aviv for many years – esepcially
since the acquisition of United by Continental and the subsequent name change to United.

So, believe what you want – but their are those within UAL who have been and continue
to advance the cause for further expansion of service by United to Israel, mostly led by former Continental executives who are now in position of authority at United.

Unfortunately, not much can be/should be said until everything is “official”.

In time, more favorable announcements will be made.

For now – the speculation can continue!



I have no idea if this would play into the benefits of Chicago (in addition to the many you already listed) but there is also a large and wealthy Palestinian population there, both Muslim and Christian. There is a 3x weekly Royal Jordanian flight from there, which I’m assuming their traffic helps support. They probably wouldn’t fly El Al, and I could be totally off base about any interest at all but I’d be curious if a significant percentage of this community would rather fly take a direct United flight into TLV than Amman. The service, hard product and mileage partners all seem better with United. I wonder which location is more annoying to drive from to the West Bank?


Crossing the Allenby Bridge (i.e. from Jordan) is supposedly torturous. While TLV airport security can’t be fun for Palestinians, I think it is easier than transiting through Jordan. The only other thought is that many have relatives in Jordan so I assume they would continue wanting to transit through Amman so they can visit relatives?


Israel won’t let West Bank Palestinians use Ben Gurion airport. They have to go through Amman.


Still think a 3rd EWR flight would make the most sense. I just don’t see the premium cabin business they need to be profitable originating or routing through ORD. EWR is a safe and smart bet, my proposal would be:
Move 84 to 2:30 PM, add a 7:00 PM, and move 90 to 11:30 pm.

Move 85 to 10:00 AM, add a 3:00 PM which hits all the 8:30 – 9:30 PM connections. 91 sort of has to stay at 10:10/11:10.. While following the LY001 01:00 would be beneficial in a lot of ways, it also kills the 6:00 AM connections (which half the plane is running to).


Re the change from the 777 to 77W–I flew one time on that 77W and refused to do it again. In fact I called United and demanded to be changed to the afternoon 777 flight for the return flight at no charge and they finally did so. It may be nicer for the folks up front, but it is HORRIBLE for all the folks in the back. I fly Econ. Plus, and it’s still awful. The seats are noticeably narrower, and much more uncomfortable when you’re flying 11+ hours. You also can’t get your luggage through the aisle, or get past anyone. Realize that they took an inch off of 9 seats, and added 17″ for another seat. Where do you think they got that extra 8″ from? The aisle. So the aisles are 4″ narrower than before. If you like to walk around somewhat on the plane, it’s much more difficult. They’ve turned a reasonable flight experience into a terrible one. I think the Dans Deals folks should write to United (FAT help that will be!) and strongly urge them to keep the 777 for at least one flight per day. We all do a lot of flying with them, and just maybe something would sink in with them, though I doubt that will every happen with this United crowd. Every time a United person is pleasant to me, I ask, “Did you come over from Continental?” They invariably say, “Yes, how did you know?” Not hard to tell the difference! But try that flight in Economy, Plus or otherwise, and you’ll see that you won’t want to fly on that plane again! It’s time to start looking for other options, and I’m open to hear what they might be.


Your comments are offensive to hard working people who didn’t ‘come over from Continental’. Perhaps your demeanor is why many crew will not work in economy.


Please add Chicago-Tel Aviv!! that would be great!!! much needed!