EL AL Adding Flights To San Francisco This Year

Filed Under: El Al

EL AL announced today that they’ll be adding 3x weekly flights between Tel Aviv and San Francisco in the fourth quarter of 2018. While no schedule or launch date has yet been announced, I suspect they’ll actually follow through on this.

San Francisco would be EL AL’s sixth US destination, after Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Newark. This flight will cover a distance of ~7,400 miles in each direction, so it will be their second longest route, after Tel Aviv to Los Angeles, which is about 150 miles longer (they presently operate that route 3x weekly using a Boeing 777-200).

EL AL intends to use a Boeing 787-9 for the new route. The airline is in the process of taking delivery of several of these planes, which they intend to use both for modest growth, and to retire their 747-400s by 2019, of which they still have four in their fleet. EL AL’s CEO said the airline wanted to add flights to San Francisco earlier, though didn’t have the available aircraft to do so. EL AL would like to expand further to North America, though likely won’t announce further routes until later in 2018.

EL AL’s decision to make San Francisco their next US gateway is an interesting one. United added 3x weekly Boeing 787 flights between San Francisco and Tel Aviv in March 2016, and has since made the flight daily. They have the advantage of having a lot of connectivity through their hub. Furthermore, while there’s significant demand between San Francisco and Tel Aviv, I imagine most tech businesses in San Francisco have contracts with United, given that it’s a fortress hub for them.

EL AL, on the other hand, won’t have much feed in San Francisco based on their current partnerships. Maybe it’s time for them to launch a partnership with Alaska Mileage Plan, especially now that Alaska has taken over Virgin America?

Regardless, I’m thrilled to see EL AL’s expansion. I flew their new 787 between Newark and Tel Aviv a couple of months ago, and had a fantastic experience.

For that matter, EL AL will definitely have the superior product between San Francisco and Tel Aviv. United hasn’t yet reconfigured any of their 787s with their new Polaris seats (which are very similar to EL AL’s 787 seats), so United’s flights feature 787s with 2-2-2 seating in business class.

What do you make of EL AL’s decision to add flights to San Francisco?

  1. Great – hoping O’Hare is next up. Annoying to have to hop to the East Coast to get a Tel Aviv flight, no reason why there shouldn’t be a direct Chicago – TLV connection.

  2. I wonder why you write EL AL in all caps. It’s not an acronym–it’s Hebrew for “to the skies”. They style themselves in all caps in their logo, but so, for example, do Delta and United, and you don’t write them in all caps.

  3. Having the name in all caps clears up any potential confusion of: El Al for instance with first letter captalised while remaining lower.
    Are we talking about EL AL here or ei ai

  4. UA’s SFO-TLV has already been such a stellar performer since inception. This uber-early non-announcement by El Al just gave UA carte blanche to upgauge SFO-TLV to 777-300ER.

  5. United operates DAILY flights to TLV using 787.
    They started with 3 weekly but moved quickly to daily flights.

  6. @ Rich — I’m simply using their own branding. Doing a Google search for EL AL, here’s how they choose to have their name displayed:
    “Israel Flights – Flights from USA to Israel | EL AL Airlines”

    So I share your confusion, but I also never understood why airberlin didn’t capitalize their name, etc. 😉

  7. I hope your tongue and cheek AS as a new partner comes true for us AS it’s better than have BA as the only way to Israel.

    As for giving UA time to ramp up their service really? EL AL has nothing to worry about when it comes to UA.

  8. Interesting- not much of a Jewish population in the Bay Area, as compared to Los Angeles. But there is a lot of tech business that might drive enough demand.

  9. @Henry LAX – I know you love to defend United at every turn, but it’s not like they have oodles of spare 773s sitting around. LOL.

    Plus, they’re be smart enough to upgauge it if the loads dictate.

  10. @ DCJoe the Bay Area is a huge Israeli hub and a very popular tourist destination for Israelis. United’s flights are full and really hard to find an award seat.

  11. United has had a home run with their SFO-TLV flight. Loads are much higher than other European destinations and they have significant feed from LA. I was on an SFO-TLV flight last year and the two people next to me were from LA. So I see this as El Al defending their LA nonstop flight and also targeting the tech business in the Bay Area. However given how bad Matmid is both in terms of earning and redeeming I suspect frequent flyers will stick with United.

  12. United enjoys a hefty premium on their non-stop service to TLV from SFO. It consistently prices several hundred dollars over connecting options in Coach and can be thousands more expensive in Business class. Interestingly, basing an itinerary ex-SFO vs ex-LAX (arguably a similar market) can also increase the price substantially, especially for premium cabins. I think EL AL wants to get in on this premium market – given the high volume of business traffic between the two high tech hubs. I can’t imagine UA gets a huge amount of connecting feed on this flight, except some smaller western cities, given that the eastern two thirds of the country could easily connect to its flight from EWR.

  13. I wonder if DC is next as interest has been expressed by EL AL to start service by the end of 2018. It would hurt the Turkish flight because that is by far their number one connecting destination from Dulles.

  14. My previous experience with availability on the UA SFO-TLV nonstops has been empty seat maps and Z9 P0 months out, all days, all West Coast connecting cities. That is a sign that they are expecting profitable flights.

  15. Any word on the layout seat pitch of their 787-9? Will they make it 2-4-2 as Boeing intended and JAL has kept?

    LY still does 9 abreast seating (3-3-3) on their 777’s whereas Untied does 10 (3-4-3). I know so many people want their Mileage Plus miles and status.

  16. DCJoe

    Because only Jewish people want to fly to Israel?

    Also, el al has super tight security, so I feel safer on them than anyone

  17. EL AL has an inherent schedule disadvantage for long-distance business travel because they don’t fly on the Sabbath. For the US West Coast it means flights must leave Thursday afternoon in order to land in Tel Aviv before sundown on Friday (14:30 hour flight + 10 hour time difference). This is why the TLV–LAX “daily” summer schedule is only 5 days a week. In New York and Newark they squeeze in a 6th weekly frequency by flying westbound on Friday morning, leaving the plane in the US over the Sabbath, and flying back to Tel Aviv late Saturday night; but from the West Coast this would mean an arrival time of close to midnight in Tel Aviv, so they stick with 5 weekly.

    So the business traveler is at a schedule disadvantage, but EL AL has a very loyal following by many Israelis, Israeli expats, and supporters of Israel. Los Angeles is the second largest U.S. market for these groups (after New York), which is why historically it has been able to hold its EL AL flights when cities like Chicago, Boston and Miami dropped theirs in the 1990s and 2000s. My guess is that the 787 makes these markets viable again, and also opens up the Bay Area, which has similar demographic characteristics (though smaller than L.A.).

  18. So United is starting 77W flights from SFO-TLV from May 23rd, 2018. Ahead of LY starting service. This way they have all aisle access and a whole lot more capacity.

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