United will start the service on September 10th from Chicago to Tel Aviv and on September 12th from Tel Aviv to Chicago and seats are now available for purchase.
United’s new flight will be operated by a 787-9 Dreamliner on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from Chicago to Tel Aviv, departing at 6:45pm and arriving at 2pm the next day.
It will return from Tel Aviv to Chicago on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 12:50am and arriving at 5:30am.
Flights from Chicago to Tel Aviv start at $884 round-trip and flights from Tel Aviv to Chicago start at just $717 round-trip. It’s unknown when Israel will reopen for foreigners, but United is allowing free changes for tickets purchased by 7/31.
Unsurprisingly, El Al has suspended the Chicago route launch indefinitely. I’d assume it will never happen as they prepare to shrink.
Sure, it’s an odd time to launch a new route, but this helps United establish themselves as the front-runner on the route. The same strategy worked in San Francisco.
Plus, a major incentive for new Israel routes is the roughly $850,000 subsidy available launching a new long-haul route with at least 3 weekly flights. With United’s quick flight launch, they will be the ones to get that subsidy. The flight subsidy greatly reduces the risk of a new route launch.
Many people have asked why United is operating the flight from Chicago to Tel Aviv on Monday, Thursday, and Saturdays, not exactly ideal days for Shabbos observant Jews.
United views its Newark flights as targeted to local origin and destination traffic. The Chicago and Washington DC flights don’t have enough origin and destination traffic to support the flights, so they’ll have to rely on connecting traffic. The San Francisco flight also picks up connecting traffic along the west coast.
The Washington DC flight operates to Tel Aviv on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, so having the Chicago to Tel Aviv flight on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday means that passengers connecting from across the country will have the ability to avoid flying through Newark on every day besides Tuesday.
The Tel Aviv to Washington DC flight operates on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday, so having the Tel Aviv to Chicago flight on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday means that passengers connecting to cities across the country will have the ability to avoid flying through Newark on every day besides Thursday.
United doesn’t think it would make sense to fly from both cities on the same days of the week, but of course if passengers prove them wrong they would be open to changing the schedule.
San Francisco to Tel Aviv flights currently operate on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday and Tel Aviv to San Francisco flights currently operate on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday. Those are slated to go daily in late October.
With El Al’s flights suspended, United is putting the 787-9 Dreamliner on all 3 of those routes. United had been flying an all Polaris fleet to Tel Aviv to compete with El Al’s Polaris style seating. United’s 787-9 fleet is in the process of being outfitted with new Polaris business class seats and a Premium economy cabin, but the retrofit has been put on hold due to COVID-19. Currently, 7 of United’s 30 787-9s have Polaris seating with direct aisle access from every seat.
Flying the 787-9s on the 3 routes means United will be able to time their flights so that they can swap planes around in Tel Aviv if needed.
If the Chicago flights are a success, I’m sure United will make it a daily flight, so locals should definitely try to make the nonstop flight work for them even if the dates are slightly inconvenient.
United will continue to fly an all Polaris fleet from NYC, where it still faces competition from Delta.
Will you fly to Israel on United’s new Chicago-Tel Aviv route? Which North American city do you think will be the next to see nonstop service to Israel?