EL AL Adding Chicago Flights In March 2020

Filed Under: El Al

Update: United Airlines is adding a 3x weekly Chicago to Tel Aviv flight as of September 2020.

At the moment EL AL is refreshing their fleet thanks to the nine Boeing 787-9s that they’re taking delivery of, which are replacing their aging 747s.

This is allowing the airline some expansion opportunities, and is also greatly improving their product. I flew EL AL’s 787 business class from Newark to Tel Aviv a bit over a year ago, and had an excellent flight.

EL AL’s 787 business class

EL AL’s expansion so far

In terms of their US destinations, EL AL currently flies to Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, and Newark. On top of that, the airline will be launching 3x weekly flights to San Francisco as of May 2019.

All of those routes make sense, but the routes they’ve announced since then have been kind of surprising. The airline is launching:

  • Once weekly flights to Las Vegas as of June 2019
  • Once weekly flights to Orlando as of July 2019

Those aren’t destinations you’d necessarily expect, and the economics of once weekly service are questionable. However, Israel’s ministry of tourism provides a €250,000 grant to an airline that starts a nonstop flight to a destination not currently served from Israel, so I imagine that’s a positive motivating factor in those routes.

EL AL is adding flights to Chicago

Arguably the biggest gap in EL AL’s route network is that they don’t fly to Chicago. Chicago has one of the world’s largest Jewish populations, and has the largest Jewish population of any destination not currently served by the airline.

I figured it was only a matter of time before it happened. There has also been quite a bit of talk about this being imminent, though up until now I haven’t seen any official confirmation. That has finally changed.

The Chicago Department of Aviation has announced that EL AL will be launching 3x weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Chicago as of March 2020. While an exact schedule hasn’t yet been published, the route will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

The route will be operated using a Boeing 787-9, featuring 282 seats spread across business class, premium economy, and economy. This is the first time in 20 years that the route is being operated, and it also represents the only route to Israel from the Central US.

EL AL’s 787 premium economy

EL AL’s VP of Commercial and Industry Affairs had the following to say:

“We are pleased to announce nonstop flights between Israel and Chicago. The City of Chicago is one of the most important academic, cultural, industrial and business centers in the United States and is an especially attractive destination for tourism and business. As part of EL AL’s expanding network, and in response to the demand from our customers, including business travelers, we are inaugurating a nonstop flight to make Israel more accessible for U.S. travelers. We look forward to growing alongside Chicago-O’Hare as it expands its terminals and increases its global connectivity.”

EL AL’s 787 economy

Bottom line

It only seems logical that EL AL is finally adding flights to Chicago. This flight isn’t quite bookable yet, given that it’s expected to launch in about a year, but I’ll be sure to post again when tickets go on sale.

While I do hope they stick to the March 2020 timeline, in reality airlines are notorious for delaying the launch of routes (EL AL just recently did it for San Francisco), so we’ll have to wait and see…

What do you make of EL AL’s new Chicago route?

  1. I sure wish they would partner with someone that would make their flights reasonably bookable with miles.

  2. I’m not sure, but I think that this route may not be operated using a 787-9. There was something with the number of seats that hinted that it will be a 787-8 route.

  3. if you’re not a famous blogger whose crews were coached for 3 days before the flight (yes, i talked to people in management at the time), elal is some of the very worst service imaginable in the entire industry. i would wish elal flights on all my enemies, except that you never know if they’re actually even going to take off- and if they do, on what day- so there are more practical means of revenge out there

  4. ORD being a United hub, I can’t understand why they never operated a flight to TLV and for that matter I wonder why elal beat them to it

  5. Yowza!

    No wonder airlines that fly these densified Boeing beasts seldom offer pics of those absolutely dreadful Economy class cabins showing the front sides of the seats (instead of the more commonly seen backs of seats in darkened cabins with the seatback IFE monitors a glowing as those economy class seats look horrendous for such very long flights.

    Horrendous – absolutely horrendous!

    So narrow; and as if that’s not already horrible enough, they also look paper thin which means numb butts for 10 or more hours and strained backs for days long after the flight landed.

    No thanks; flyers would be wise to take a pass on that nasty nightmare!

    And having flown aboard those nasty Boeing densified beasts on a pair of 11+ hours flights last year (fortunately in PE both directions), and actually using those pathetically narrow aisles to stretch my legs periodically, those aisles become a dangerous, limb clogged obstacle course, too – especially during overnight flights where it’s utterly impossible to avoid accidentally kicking outstretched feet and legs; impossible to avoid accidentally bumping into outstretched hands and arms; and it’s even impossible to avoid accidentally bumping into the occasional tilted/drooping head – yes! even heads! – no matter how careful one is, or even if the bring a small flashlight with them to better light the way as they attempt to shimmy through those preposterously narrow aisles on any 9-abreast “densified” Boeing 787 or any 10-abreast “densified” Boeing 777.

    If flying Economy, just look at the super narrow seats in the photo above, along with that ridiculously narrow aisle, and take it from someone who’s flown these nasty, densified planes:

    AVOID! AVOID! AVOID! (if you’re not in a premium cabin, that is)

  6. @Lucky,

    The schedule has now been posted on Israeli media.
    Departing TLV at 12pm, and from ORD at 6:30pm.

    Also, the MCO route is seasonal, and thus isnot eligible to the grant from the ministry of tourism. In order for a route to be eligible, it has to be served for at least 18 months in a row. Also, the money has to be spent on publishing the new route at the destination country.

  7. Just look at those seats is right…OMG flying has become a nightmare. I flew one of those terrible new AA 737 densified beasts over the holidays (ORD-LAS) and seriously, it has scarred me. The two other men sitting with me were so tall and large that the flight attendants actually had to reseat people based on size so we could all fit…like a freaking puzzle! Not to mention my back and backside really did hurt for 2 days, and this was after only a 3 1/2 flight. It’s like if I can’t manage a biz class seat on international flights, I literally either stay home or choose a destination with biz seat availability. And, if I must fly domestically for some reason I choose any airline other than AA out of ORD. The new seating on the MAX planes should be illegal.

  8. @Howard Miller

    Agreed, the “densified” economy seats are awful. Had the misfortune of an equipment change from a 9-abreast 777 to a 10-abreast 777 FRA-ORD on United recently. This also included UA reassigning me from a window to a middle seat, which only added to the discomfort.

    My complaint to United about the lack of seat comfort and width received the reply that the “seat width is only a slight quarter-inch narrower than our 787”. Which served only to put me off flying on UA’s 787.

    It’s not just Boeing though, the thin seats popular in economy on the A320 series are just as bad.

  9. Had dreaded the worst but had a somewhat pleasant surprise on a recent el al rt miami to tel aviv in -gasp- economy.

    They use newer seats that indent-ie the seats do not go from the top of the seat to the bottom at the floor where the lower portion is filled with in flight print info which juts against the passenger’s knees.
    This design leaves room for the feet and limbs of those of us in peasant class to slide under the seat ahead.There was also more recline than usual.
    Reminded me of lufthansa 747-8 journeys with better type of seats.

    Found el al and lufthansa much more comfortable than flights have had with swiss which used the old seats .

    Agree with earlier comment that in the middle of the night you must tread carefully when going to the sherut not to bang into passenger limbs protruding into the narrow aisle.

  10. I’m also perplexed how United never picked up on that one. I wonder if something about the EWR TLV routes made them feel it wouldn’t work? Even so, Chicago is their fortress and they could offer one stop service to TLV from the entire Midwest region. I feel exactly the same about Chicago-Mumbai route.

  11. @Lucky

    I was right – Elal announced today that this route will be operated by a 788, rather than a 789.

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