Review: EL AL Business Class 787 Newark To Tel Aviv

Filed Under: El Al

EL AL 28
Newark (EWR) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
Sunday, November 12
Depart: 1:15PM
Arrive: 6:35AM (+1 day)
Duration: 10hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 14A (Business Class)

We boarded through door L2, where we were greeted by Adi, the inflight service manager. He pointed me towards my seat in the business class cabin, though since the cabin was still empty I quickly snapped a picture of premium economy, located immediately to the right of the second door. Premium economy is a new concept for EL AL that debuted on the 787, and the cabin looked fairly comfortable, with a total of 28 seats.

EL AL 787 premium economy cabin

Then there was the business class cabin, which is a new design for EL AL, and infinitely better than what they had on their 777s and 747s. EL AL’s 787 business class cabin consists of a total of 32 seats, spread across eight rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The configuration is staggered, and you have direct aisle access from every seat. This cabin is remarkably similar to United’s new Polaris seats, though these seats are actually the CL6710 model by Recaro.

EL AL 787 business class cabin

EL AL 787 business class cabin

In the center part of the cabin, every other row has two seats very close to one another, often referred to as honeymoon seats (though there’s also a privacy partition between seats that can be raised). Then the other rows have two seats closer to the aisles.

EL AL business class seats 787

The same general design is true along the windows. Odd numbered rows have seats closer to the aisle. These wouldn’t be my preferred seats, since they don’t have as much privacy as the window seats in even numbered rows. The one main benefit of the odd numbered seats is that you won’t feel as constrained when you’re in bed mode.

EL AL business class seats 787

EL AL business class seat 787

EL AL business class seat 787

Then evened numbered rows have the window seats closer to the windows. These seats feel like private cocoons, since there’s a console separating you from the aisle, and you have great views out the window.

EL AL business class seat 787

EL AL business class seat 787

EL AL business class seat 787

I was in 14A, while my mom was in 15A.

On the aisle-side of my seat was a large counter and then a console that contained the entertainment controllers, headphone jacks, a USB outlet, an exposed storage compartment, and a fully enclosed storage compartment.

EL AL business class seat console & entertainment control

Inside the compartment were the headphones.

EL AL business class seat storage compartment

While not as good as Bose headphones, they were among the better “basic” noise canceling headphones I’ve received on a plane.

EL AL business class seat headphones

Then underneath the console were the seat controls, which were easy to use. There were also armrests on both sides of the seat, which could be folded down.

EL AL business class seat armrest

EL AL business class seat controls

Underneath the seat and to the side was a 110v and USB outlet.

EL AL business class seat power outlet

The personal television could be extended from the seat in front, and immediately underneath it was the tray table.

EL AL business class seat tray table

Underneath that was the footwell. It was a bit on the tight side, though not uncomfortable. However, as a side sleeper there wasn’t much wiggle room when in the reclined position.

EL AL business class seat legroom

There was another storage compartment to the of the footwell — unfortunately this part of the seat wasn’t looking as fresh as the rest of the cabin.

EL AL business class seat storage

EL AL’s new business class hard product is great, and such a significant improvement compared to the angled seats they have on their 777s and 747s, with up to seven seats per row. I also think they did a great job with their cabin finishes in terms of colors. I do wish they had air vents at each individual seat, which far too many non-US airlines don’t have, in my experience.

Also waiting at my seat on boarding was a packaged pillow and blanket. The pillow was plush, while the blanket was thick without being overly warm. It would be nice if they eventually invested in better bedding, but what they have right now isn’t bad at all.

EL AL business class pillow & blanket

A moment after settling in Nadine came by my seat to introduce herself and say she’d be taking care of me. She asked if I wanted anything to drink. I asked what she had, and she responded with “try me.” Hah, works for me. I ordered some sparkling wine, which was served with a bag of mixed nuts.

EL AL business class pre-departure drink

A few minutes later I was offered a Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit, which was fairly basic — it had earplugs, eyeshades, socks, toothpaste, lip balm, and body lotion.

EL AL business class amenity kit

Towards the end of boarding the crew passed through with bottled water.

EL AL business class bottled water

Ultimately it’s the crew that makes or breaks a flight, and I was so impressed by Adi and the rest of the business class crew. Adi came around to each and every passenger during boarding to personally welcome them onboard, ask them about their trip to Israel, introduce the new seat to them, etc. It’s always nice when employees take pride in what they’re offering, and it’s clear that the 787 is a point of pride for the airline.

Boarding took quite a while, and eventually just about every seat on the plane was occupied, including every seat in business class. At 1:10PM the door closed, and a few minutes after that the safety video was screened, which was super fun. I was amused by the animations they had of the various crewmembers.

EL AL safety video

At 1:20PM we began our pushback, and then 10 minutes later we began our taxi.

Taxiing Newark Airport

Shortly after starting our taxi the captain came on the PA — “Shalom and good afternoon, 9hr50min to Tel Aviv, we will be taking off in a couple of minutes. Thank you for flying EL AL.”

We had to cross runway 11/29, and then within a few minutes we were cleared for takeoff on runway 22R.

Taxiing Newark Airport

View after takeoff from Newark

View after takeoff from Newark

While our climb out was smooth, it was about 20 minutes after takeoff before the seatbelt sign was turned off.

View after takeoff from Newark

During this time I browsed the entertainment system. While EL AL doesn’t have Wi-Fi, the entertainment selection was quite good. There are certainly airlines with better offerings out there, but there was no shortage of decent movies (in total there were 141 to choose from).

EL AL 787 entertainment selection

EL AL 787 entertainment selection

EL AL 787 entertainment selection

EL AL 787 entertainment selection

EL AL 787 entertainment selection

After checking out the airshow I decided to watch a couple of episodes of The Middle.

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

EL AL 787 entertainment selection

Once the seatbelt sign was turned off the crew sprung into action.

EL AL 787 business class cabin

About 30 minutes after takeoff Nadine passed through with warm towels, and around the same time Adi passed through with the menus for the flight, and he highlighted that all the wines onboard were Israeli (I love when airlines showcase local wines onboard).

EL AL business class warm towel

EL AL business class menu & wine list

The menu read as follows:

The wine list read as follows:

About 40 minutes after takeoff the first round of drinks was served, once again with packaged nuts. I ordered a glass of the Israeli sauvignon blanc, which I loved.

EL AL business class wine — Yarden 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

I also ordered a sparkling water, though unfortunately they only had seltzer water.

EL AL business class lunch — wine and mixed nuts

Once drinks were served, Nadine came through to take meal orders. She asked if we wanted to be served the appetizer and main course on the same tray (to expedite the service), or if we wanted it to be served separately. We were in no rush, so we had it separately.

About 80 minutes after takeoff the first tray of food was served, along with a selection from the breadbasket.

The appetizer consisted of sesame crusted seared tuna with daikon radish slaw, which was phenomenal. The salad it was served with was significantly less impressive, and quite boring, actually.

EL AL business class lunch — appetizer and salad

For the main course I ordered the sweet chili glazed seared salmon fillet with basmati rice, sugar snap peas, and pea tendrils. The fish and sugar snap peas were good, though the dish was a bit bland, as I could barely taste the sweet chili glaze.

EL AL business class lunch — salmon

Meanwhile my mom had the chicken cubes in a mango Thai red curry sauce with pad Thai noodles and edamame beans, which she enjoyed.

EL AL business class lunch — chicken with curry

Dessert was next. My mom and I split a fresh fruit plate and the most amazing chocolate pastry, which was so good. I also had a coffee as well as the dessert wine, which Adi encouraged us to both try. His knowledge of the wines impressed me, as he knew all the details of every wine we asked about. Impressive.

EL AL business class lunch — dessert, fresh fruit, and coffee

By the time the meal was done the sun was already starting to set — you know it’s winter when you takeoff at 1PM and the sun sets two hours later!

Sunset enroute to Tel Aviv

I went to sleep just north of Newfoundland, with about 7hr40min remaining in our flight.

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

I woke up three hours later, as we were just north of the UK. Frankly that’s more sleep than I was expecting to get on a flight leaving so early in the day, so I was pleased with that.

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

After once again browsing the entertainment selection I decided to watch Bride Wars. I have no clue how I haven’t seen this movie before?!

EL AL entertainment selection

The crew passed through the cabin frequently, and I ordered an espresso to try and wake up a bit. EL AL has a proper Nespresso machine on their 787, and the espresso and cappuccinos were excellent.

EL AL business class espresso

Later on I just had a plain coffee, since an espresso was a bit too strong, and I didn’t want a bunch more calories (though I devoured the two cookies they served with the coffee, so I guess that didn’t last long). I was also asked if I wanted any other snacks, sandwiches, etc., though I passed.

EL AL business class coffee

Soon enough we were just 2hr20min from arriving in Tel Aviv.

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

Two hours before landing the cabin lights were turned all the way up, and the breakfast service began. That started with warm towels being distributed, followed by the choice of grapefruit juice, orange juice, or water.

EL AL business class breakfast — juice to start

Then yet another menu was distributed for the breakfast service.

EL AL business class breakfast menu

The menu read as follows:

Breakfast orders were taken about 10 minutes after the menus were distributed, and then a few minutes late breakfast was served.

Everything about the breakfast was amazing. I loved the salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and radishes, I loved the salmon and olives, the bagel was actually soft and fresh-tasting, the cappuccino was amazing, and I also enjoyed the yogurt and muesli. Yum, yum, yum.

EL AL business class breakfast 

EL AL business class breakfast — cappuccino 

My mom chose the other breakfast option, which came with all the same stuff, except it had an omelet in place of the yogurt and muesli.

EL AL business class breakfast — omelet

Adi also came around with a tray containing cinnamon rolls and other delicious caloric carbs. I resisted, but it was tough to do given how good they smelled.

EL AL business class breakfast — pastries

Before I knew it were about 90 minutes out, and I decided to get some work done on my laptop.

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

Here’s one complaint I have about the EL AL 787 — I don’t think the bathroom setup is very good. There’s one lavatory at the front of the cabin, and then two lavatories behind business class, though they’re shared with premium economy. So in reality there’s only one dedicated business class lavatory which is also shared with the pilots, so there was almost always a queue to use any of the three bathrooms.

EL AL 787 business class lavatory

EL AL 787 business class lavatory amenities

As we began our descent we were treated to a sunrise that was every bit as beautiful as the sunset we had earlier.

Sunrise enroute to Tel Aviv

At 6AM Adi came around the cabin to distribute chocolates and mints, and to thank everyone for flying with EL AL and ask what they thought of the flight and the 787. I really can’t say enough good things about him and the rest of the crew. Adi clearly loves what he does, and couldn’t have been more professional and friendly. He also constantly checked on my mom (after she shared just how excited she was about the trip, etc.), which I appreciate more than just about anything else in the world.

EL AL business class chocolates and mints

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

Airshow enroute to Tel Aviv

The seatbelt sign was turned on about 10 minutes before landing, at which point Tel Aviv came into sight.

View approaching Tel Aviv

View approaching Tel Aviv

View approaching Tel Aviv

We had a smooth touchdown at Ben Gurion Airport at 6:30AM, and from there had a roughly five minute taxi to our arrival gate.

Taxiing Ben Gurion Airport

We taxied past the Cathay Pacific A350, which had already arrived.

Cathay Pacific A350 Ben Gurion Airport

Taxiing Ben Gurion Airport

At the terminal we parked next to an EL AL 777.

EL AL 777 Ben Gurion Airport

To my surprise, the arrivals process was quite easy, and within about 20 minutes we were enroute to Jerusalem.

EL AL 787 business class bottom line

Historically EL AL doesn’t exactly have a great reputation for their onboard experience, and I came in with low expectations. Suffice to say I was very pleasantly surprised. First of all, the new 787 is gorgeous, and such an improvement over the other longhaul planes that they have in their fleet. Arguably their new business class hard product is better than their old first class hard product.

However, what impressed me most was the genuine warmth of the crew. Obviously there’s a huge amount of variability in terms of the quality of flight attendants, though Adi and his team blew me away. The food and entertainment selection also exceeded my expectations

Well done, EL AL. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a flight on EL AL’s excellent new 787.

  1. @ Michael Eden — They have extra legroom economy on other planes (as far as I know), though not premium economy. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. The breakfast pastries served from the aluminum dish look tacky. Couldn’t they have at least removed the aluminum prior to service?

    Hard product looks good though.

  3. For those of us who aren’t famous bloggers whose crews are pre-briefed for hours, we get nothing but cattle car treatment on elal, even in business class. in fact, i was once forcibly removed from business class because a coach passenger had self upgraded into my seat and threw an apoplectic rage fit, so rather than delay the flight more than the 3h it was already delayed (or get her off the plane!), they stuck me in her seat in back, then midway through the flight offered me a $100 travel voucher in compensation.

  4. Hi Lucky,

    Genuine question and not taking a swipe at all. I am just curious – when you travel with an airline do you notify the airlines PR people that you are travelling and a blogger?

    Many Thanks DL

  5. Normally I doubt most airlines know who you are but El AL – yeah they knew who you were. Their security checks assuredly found your blog, your Rolling Stone profile etc…. There is a reason when Richard Reed flew El Al they checked his shoes, seated him in the last row and put an air marshall next to him. But the hard product looks nice and food certainly seems acceptable for business class.

  6. @Lucky, you are right. The old planes have “economy plus”, not “premium economy”. Big difference.

    P. S. Great post. Perhaps you can remove the immodest picture of the “bride wars” movie? I really wanted to share this post with many of my Jewish (religious) friends who would greatly appreciate this review, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to forward with this photo. Just a thought….

  7. I love the faux wood finishes on the seats. Even though I know it’s a very thin veneer at best and a giant sticker at worst, I think it makes the cabin look much more elegant than, say, the bland office-buildling-like look of grey/dark grey/blue like on AA. China Airlines’ faux wood (or veneers) is beautifully executed. This looks great, too. The neutral earth tones look very sharp.

    I also appreciate it when the FAs kneel or crouch to talk to you, as seen in one of the pictures. I think it shows a desire to properly communicate versus just shouting questions at passengers from on high. I wonder if El Al added some new customer service training to the mix when they got the new plane. You know, new plane, new seats, new YOU!

  8. @Y K:

    Legitimate question, but what’s immodest about the cover photo for Bride Wars? I see Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway standing next to each other holding glasses. What in Judaic law/practice is immodest about that?

  9. @ Y K — If they think that picture is immodest, then they don’t deserve to be on the internet, let alone this blog. Good lord, how sheltered and conservative can they be if that would offend them?

  10. @ AdamR
    “I also appreciate it when the FAs kneel or crouch to talk to you, as seen in one of the pictures. I think it shows a desire to properly communicate versus just shouting questions at passengers from on high.”

    Strange: that’s one of my big pet hates. I know Lucky also likes it when FAs kneel at his feet, but I really don’t want people grovelling on the floor to talk to me. I’m not a medieval potentate with a Narcissism complex, or an old sweaty businessman who needs young women to act subserviently to me.

    Keep it professional. Stay standing.

  11. He did visit the capital, Tel Aviv. Which is clearly the political and world-recognized capital of this criminal land.

  12. Lucky thanks for the review I only flew elal once on economy plus but had booked it with very low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised at the service although product left alot to be desired the crew genuinely tried to please and was very courteous which came as a shocker given what I always thought of Israeli customer service so I’m not surprised at your review in addition Ithe security is definitely a step above the TSA

  13. @Lucky: Is it possible to book this flight the way you did (meaning departing from toronto) and skipping the flight on porter airlines and therefore starting in newark or will the booking be canceled?

    you never contacted me for advice and tips before the trip
    Great review! can’t wait to try it myself now after many years of intentionally avoiding elal

  14. A coffee note – espresso might taste “stronger” because it’s a more concentrated viscous liquid, but filter coffee will have more caffeine. Two reasons: water is in contact with coffee grounds much longer (20 seconds for espresso vs a few minutes for filter coffee), and usually espresso will have a high percentage of Arabica coffee (mostly it’s 100% actually for above average brands like Illy), which has less caffeine than Robusta coffee which is mostly used for American coffee.

  15. I agree the wood veneer looks very “smart”. But unless it’s a very thick veneer, I wonder if the heavily worn horizontal surfaces won’t start to wear and expose the plastic underneath? That’s why you don’t see it much on the tops of tables – it looks terrible when it wears through.

  16. Wow – I love following travels – all of the branded ELAL items (such as the glassware) and the Israeli wines featured on this 787 flight are exciting – a different reality from your recent flights on Hawaiian Airlines; appreciate your frank insights always – safe and happy travels

  17. Adi is not only a Purser, he’s LY’s Chief Flight Attendant – and for good reason! He’s simply the best!

  18. I used to fly on El Al’s 707s and 720s.
    As I recall, even in coach (which was 98% of the cabin) the food was very good. They gave you more food than Air France and TWA.
    Alas, I haven’t flown LY since September of 1970.
    I should give them another try.

  19. I would be interested to hear about El Al’s security at Newark. I’ve only flown on El Al once, from Germany to Tel Aviv and that was back in the 1970s. The security was extraordinary, so I’m interested to know about El Al’s additional security (over and above TSA) in the U.S.

  20. As someone who’s only travelled business class once – are the 787 seats fully reclining, i.e. completely flat? You refer to wiggle room and not being able to sleep on your side…

  21. The flight-attendant allowed herself watching movie with elevated feet on seats of business class passengers during her working time between the servings, even though the flight was only 4 hours. She has not even bothered to stand up to let the passenger to pass from a window seat to toilet. Business class passengers pay for the services and not for the arrogant behavior.

  22. Took must first EL AL flight in 1962 on a Boeing 720B from London to New York; last one in 1992 from Zurich to Tel Aviv in a 757. They were excellent; good food, nice crews and comfortable. My grandmother had a picture boarding a Curtis in 1950 to Cyprus.

  23. Just FYI.
    “Air Israel! Please clear the runway!” is taken from the 1980 comedy “AIrplane!”. Funny scene.

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