Posted by Meir @ PEYD Travel
How we booked – My wife and I booked mileage tickets, which usually come out to be 2500 Matmid points plus around $150 in fuel charges each. Since we were traveling with our daughter, we would have needed to add her to one of our first class tickets, and that would have cost about $1,000 (10% of full fare). While this would have been possible, another option was to add her to someone else’s ticket in economy, as a lap-child for a similar price. We found a girl who was willing to take the deal of a free ticket in return for babysitting services for the duration of our flight, and then we were off to the airport. (Amazing, no?)
Getting to the airport – worked out perfectly as we happened to need to return a car rental we had been using to NYC location, and I was able to arrange for it to be returned to JFK on the day we left. When we got to the airport, I left my wife and the person who agreed to watch my daughter, in the car, while I checked in. Even though we were checking in to First Class, the process is nothing to write home about, and although the service was quick, the agents were not really friendly, which greatly detracted from the feel-good atmosphere of first-class travel. At the counter, there was a single line to the right, and it took about 7 minutes until I had my boarding pass in hand. I then went back to the car, and proceeded to return it to the rental company while my wife checked in by herself to First Class. After she checked in she was planning on waiting with our “babysitter”, but the agent “escorted” (read: forced) her to go through security by herself in the Business/First class line. By time the time my wife and I were finished with security, our babysitter (with my daughter) still hadn’t gone through, and we had to wait another 15 minutes until they were done. Finally, once we were all past security we headed off to the King David Lounge.
Comfort of the lounge – First Class ticket holders are allowed to bring one guest into the lounge. I read on FT that some King David lounges don’t allow infants, but we didn’t have any problems. Walking in, there is a big seating area to the right, with tons of kosher food. Everything is Catered by Borensteins Catering. It’s really cool to have a lounge where you can eat everything and anything you want. First Class has their own lounge to the left when you walk in. We were the only ones there when we arrived and when we were about to leave, an older couple came in. It’s pretty small, but since it was empty we had a lot of space to spread out and for my kid to run around. There were bagels, salads, eggs, and they even had cholov yisroel milk. I realized I forgot to request a bassinet seat for our babysitter. I went to the agent and he told me that he couldn’t give her a bassinet seat, but he got her a seat with two empty seats next to it, which worked out perfectly. About 9:30 am they announced boarding for Business Class ticket holders and 5 minutes after that we headed to our gate. I believe they call boarding for First Class 10-15 minutes after Business Class, but since we had to change our babysitters seat at the gate, the agent allowed us to board a little earlier.
At the gate, we quickly got my babysitter her new seat, and we were off to the plane. Since there were two empty seats next to our economy ticket, they let us bring along our forward facing carseat, which we pulled around the airport with a travelmate. So there was no need to check anything at the gate. Yes!
First Impression of the seats – I quickly settled myself into my seat ,which was 2B, while my wife helped our babysitter settle in with our daughter. We flew El-Al’s new 747 airplane. There are a total of a 8 seats and on our flight there were 5 passegners, a little more than half filled. The First Class is in the nose on the bottom floor of the plane. So it’s really nice not to have a galley in front you. Each seat comes with a wrapped blanket, pillow and Salvotore Ferragommo amenity kit waiting for you. I was offered pajamas right away, and when my wife came back they offered her pink ones. My thoughts on the new seat; I’ve flown a couple First Class airlines and this seat didn’t come close to those. I would say the seat is a little better then United’s Business/First class seat on their 757 airplanes. It’s not ideal to sleep more than a half or so without the bedding, but with the bedding it makes it doable. Personally, I didn’t sleep so well on the flight, mostly because it was a day flight, but also because of the comfort of the bed didn’t drift me to sleep :D. So, as far as the seat is concerned, El-Al could have done a much better job. The IFE is also horrible. They have these pull out 10 inch screens, with 11 channels. Half of them didn’t work and of the half that did it, the channels were in Hebrew. There is no bathroom in the First Class cabin, rather they reserve one of the Business Class restrooms and every time you want to use it a crew member opens it for you. This is all in terms of the hard product. The soft product is a whole different story.
Flight attendants – There were 2 crew members working the First Class. Both were extremely nice and very friendly. Coming into this flight, I did not have high expectations of the crew, but they were phenomenal compared to El-Al’s usual standards. They made sure we had whatever we needed and had immediate assistance with any request we had. I asked for chocolate milk, and instead of saying they didn’t have, the attendant figured out a way to melt the chocolate, so I can have hot chocolate, which was very tasty. Again, I don’t think attendants were as good as Cathay or Swiss, but they were definitely in their league.
The Food; the part everyone is waiting to hear about…. – Since we took a day flight, lunch/dinner was served about an hour after take off and breakfast 3 hours before landing. All in all, I was very satisfied; besides for one thing. Let me explain. Since everything is Kosher, it needs to be wrapped separately. I was under the impression that El-Al’s food is just like any other first class food, besides the fact that it’s kosher, which is not necessarily true. For the first meal they served us in two courses. For the first course they served fresh salids with turkey, eggplant, hummos, croutons and olives. I was able to mix everything around and it tasted phenomenal. I really felt like I was eating at regular restaurant. For the main course, we had a choice between beef, chicken, and fish. I choose the beef, while my wife chose chicken. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was expecting this huge piece of steak. I mean isn’t that what First Class is all about?!!! They brought out a wrapped piece of beef with some vegetables and couscous. The beef very good, but again, nothing out of this world. For those of you that have flown El-Al First Class, was my expectations too high? Are the main courses usually better? Please tell me so, because I definitely wasn’t wowed. During the meal, I asked for some bourbon, which they didn’t have, so instead I opted for some Glenmore single malt scotch, which was alright.
During the flight – I slept a little, did some work, watched a movie, and of course, my wife and I took turns going to the economy area to check up on our daughter. We actually brought her to the first class cabin twice, for a couple minutes, which none of the crew members minded. Three hours before the flight, they served breakfast. Again, the first course was amazing with hot bagels, tuna fish, lox, a couple different types of yogurt, salads, cream cheese, and cheese cake. For the second course, it was either an omelet or shakshuka. My wife and I both choose the omelet. Again, it was a nice little omelet served on a plate, but didn’t taste like anything special.
Recap – All-in-all, the flight was amazing and it didn’t hurt that we didn’t have to stopover in Europe, to experience a real first class flight. The food was very good; in hindsight, I think I just was expecting something that wasn’t there. The service was much better than I expected. If you have any questions, please ask I will try to answer them. Thanks for reading.
Meir Shuvalsky –
Your Travel Consultant – Meir@PEYDTravel.com – 646.801.PEYD (7393)