Reader Question: Which Airline Should I Use To Book Travel For My Child Hoping To Study In Israel This Year?

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DansDeals reader and CEO of Shmais.com Levi Hodakov reached out to me last week to figure out how to send his daughter to seminary in Israel.

Israel’s borders are closed to foreigners, but Yeshivas and Seminary programs there have been hopeful based on government advice that they will be allowed to open this fall and students will get permission to fly to Israel and quarantine upon arrival. With COVID-19 cases there spiking, that will be an open question until they actually board the plane. Israel has previously shut down student travel without any advance warning unless you were already en-route.

There are a few factors to unpack here:

  • Which airline is most likely to operate
  • Which airline will be the best in case they need to cancel
  • Which routing is best given the current situation

While in normal years it would probably make sense to look into connections in other countries, I’d be wary of doing that now. The situation is just too fluid and you don’t want to have your teenage child stuck in a terminal on another continent when the rules suddenly change.

El Al is not currently selling flights in August, though they may be open to operating charter flights. Personally I’d be wary of these as the odds of getting a refund from El Al or a travel agent chartering a flight if things go south are slim.

If you want a direct flight from the US, that leaves just Delta and United.

Delta has the advantage of blocking middle seats for social distancing. If you book your ticket by 7/31, you can cancel your flight for free, but you’ll only have 1 year from the time of booking to finish using the ticket and it will have to be used in the passenger’s name.

United isn’t blocking middle seats, however if you book your ticket by 7/31 they will allow you to cancel a flight and request an electronic travel certificate in its place. That certificate will be valid for 2 years (or potentially even longer) and can be used by anyone for travel on United.

If you have Delta miles, you can book a Delta flight and get a refund of the miles and taxes as long as you cancel before departure.

If you have United miles, you can book a United flight and get a refund of the miles and taxes as long as you cancel 30 days before departure. Alternatively you can change your ticket for free at any time and make the date later in 2020 in order to allow yourself to cancel 30 days before departure for free. 😀

While students often pay extra for an open ended ticket, both Delta and United tickets are essentially open ended as change fees are waived. If the price of a ticket goes up though, you would be responsible for the change of fare, though that should be fairly minimal for the return portion of a ticket.

While there is currently United saver award space from Newark to Tel Aviv on August 25 for 32K Turkish miles or 42.5K United miles, that would get his daughter into Israel a day late for school.

He could also wait to book tickets, but with fewer flights operating, there’s a good chance that seats will sell out. Thanks to flexible ticket policies, the risk to book now is fairly low.

In the end he booked a round-trip from Tampa to Tel Aviv on United via Newark for about $1,000. If school gets cancelled he’ll have a $1,000 voucher that anyone can use on United for at least the next 2 years. The voucher can be used an unlimited amount of times until the funds are completely used or it can be used in combination with any other United vouchers for more expensive tickets. And assuming that school does start on time, the return flight will be changeable for free.

What tickets are you booking for your kids learning in Israel this year?

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71 Comments On "Reader Question: Which Airline Should I Use To Book Travel For My Child Hoping To Study In Israel This Year?"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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NW

Shmais?! Good ol’ times

Marcus

What does Shmais mean?

Leah

Is Israel allowing non Israelis in the country yet with the COVID situation?

Janice Levitan

I booked on United – Chicago thru Newark. I figure that I should support the airline that is planning to bring direct flight to Chicago. There is a possibility, however, that they are going to force us to use a “group flight” but I booked both ways on United metal to ensure the ability to cancel…

I’m just waiting now to hear what the official word is as they finalize the decisions.

Anita

Can schools force you to take the group flights? The wording from the schools make it seem as you must travel and arrive by the times they say or you risk not being allowed into the school. If you aren’t on their group flight and your flight is delayed, then what…

Yeshivabucher

Go on their flight just go through your own travel agent

joel

is delta requiring 72 hours advance cancellation on award ticket ?

sam

from Dans words it seems that no. delta rep told me yes but they do not always know….

Yochai

Earlier this month there was wide open availability on delta with 29k flying blue miles. Those are also fully refundable.

sam

i booked august 3 on turkish using aegean points and air france on delta points. turkish just cancelled the flight however if i refund the ticket the aegean points can take a while to come back, so hoping UA nonstop will open last minute, aegean can put me on that, and will cancel out delta / air france ticket…

Avi

Hi Dan,
You sure about the free changes? I’ve spoken with Delta half a dozen times including group sales and they’ve consistently said there would be a charge for the change ($300) if the change is made after 7/31, not just if the ticket is booked then

Chuchim from Machal Maalot dafna

Dan, in your personal opinion, what are the chances that this permission actually materializes and Yeshiva’s and sems can bring in their students ?

Tidbit

A friend of mine runs a school. She said Masa is working on securing the visas for any school under its umbrella.

Stam a guy

However, last I heard, Masa knocked out many of the yeshivas/sems that were under that umbrella.

CollegeGirl

Hey Dan, I booked tickets EWR-MCO on July 10 for 10-5-10/8 at $50 each for 2 adults. When I went to cancel United issued me a voucher and said I can only use for the 2 ticketed passengers. I tried using my $100.40 credit for 2 of the exact same tickets at $28/$29 each ($60 total) and using the remaining credit for a seat for my 1 year old. The united agent said I cannot since she was not ticketed on the reservation only as a lap infant. Not only that they said policy has changed and they will not refund the difference of $40. ($100-$60) I spoke to an agent last night and officially a supervisor (honestly could’ve just been another agent lol)

uz

Any advice how to apply for a first time passport? Any way to expedite?

B

Wow, thanks Dan. Just booked my daughter RT from Houston to TLV on United for $1069- plus paid $286 and 80 Plus Points to confirm her in Polaris lie flat business class both ways. Great deal, especially considering the fact its essentially an “open ticket” due to the flexibility offered by the new no change fees policy… 🙂

Ben

When is your opinion about British airways tickets at this point?

Thanks much

Dave

This thread isn’t going to excuse the absence of this week’s Sunday Roundup 😉

rob

Most people don’t have 65K TK points sitting around – they’ll likely transfer from Citi or another partner. And while you’ll get your 65K TK points back, you won’t be able to move them back to Citi.

So I would caution your readership, not to book with TK or another “fringe” mileage program unless you’re ok potentially sitting with a large TK balance for a while.

I think at this point, the best mileage option would be the one you already have enough currency of. Don’t transfer flexible point currencies just to book a ticket that is probably better than 50/50 to get refunded.

Marcus

What’s wrong with TK? Why can’t you use it for another Star Alliance flight i.e. United domestic?

rob

It’s not about TK specifically – I just brought them up because they were specifically cited in the post.

The point is that even in normal times, you never want to transfer flexible currencies without a specific redemption in mind. In crazy times like this, even moreso you don’t want to sit with a balance because by the time you might be ready to use it for a different purpose, a lot could change.

If you are absolutely confident you’ll have a use for TK miles, and that whatever sweet spot you want to use it on will still be around when you’re ready to book, great! But that won’t be the case for many people. The odds of that Hawaii loophole still being around in a year or two is slim.

Yonah

I foolishly booked ElAl for my Son at the end of June, about a week before they went belly up. I then booked on Delta with Miles – however they told me it’s $150 to change or cancel his flight – did I speak to the wrong people?

The worst part. The flight he’s on went up from about 70,000 miles when I first looked at it to 100k miles when I booked it.

Shana bet mother

Is it safer to pay for a return ticket with points or with a credit card? I have enough Chase points. I don’t know if the school will give travel options or insist on parents booking with their agent

Ilya

What about AirCanada? Any pitfalls flying through Toronto?

Sharon

My daughter’s school is being very flexible. They offered a group flight on UA the other day through a travel agent. They suggested booking on our own for less money or just waiting it out were also possible options. They normally use ELAL. Now that they were advised that students will be let in, they are hopeful that ELAL will offer flights, for those that did not book on UA. Who knows? I figure if none of this works out for September, my daughter can enroll for online classes at our local community college and we will hope for at least half a year in Israel in Sem!

Aaron

Hey Dan,
In regard to the one year allotted for booking Delta tickets with a canceled flight credits, if I would book right now, would the return ticket also have to be by July 21st. It’s very relevant because for me because the next year Tisha B’Av is on July 18. I want to know if I can book a departure ticket before July 21st next year, and return a month later, which would be a year and one month from the time of purchase.

Thanks for all your help always!

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