El Al announced today that they will be purchasing and/or leasing 15 Boeing 787-800 and 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft and options for another 13 aircraft, with deliveries starting in the first half of 2017.
The 787s will replace their gas-guzzling 747 and 767 aircraft.
That’s great news for struggling El Al, but the real question is what will be the future of their premium class cabins where they have been bleeding premium fare passengers to their competition?
Currently El Al operates ancient business and first class cabins. The business class seats don’t each have direct aisle access like Air Canada, Delta, and USAirways all offer. They operate the only “first class” between North America and Tel Aviv, but the seats are made of faux-leather and they too don’t each have direct aisle access.
Hopefully a new aircraft will bring new premium class seating for El Al that does include direct aisle access for every seat.
The vast majority of airlines don’t operate 3 cabin first class on the 787 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see El Al jettison it as well.
The 787 isn’t dreamy for passengers in coach on most airlines though. Airlines have been stuffing seats into them at levels that far exceeded Boeing’s original projections, making travel in the back of the bus rather uncomfortable. Seating is typically 9 across on a plane that’s 7% narrower than a 777. Air Canada flies a 787 from Toronto to Tel Aviv with a seat width in coach of just 17.3″ and a pitch of just 30-31″ compares to an 18″ width and 32″ pitch on El Al’s 747.
Hopefully El Al can figure out how to re-position themselves as a premium carrier with the launch of the Dreamliner. And while we’re wishing for things, a redesigned website would be great as well :D