photo: Ziv Bok
by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer
A massive undertaking planned for the Frommers: Four months in Israel researching and interviewing for our book, an oral history about the miraculous nation as told by those who lived the experience. Very long trip from New York to Tel Aviv.
In our long travel writing career, we have flown all over on different airlines, some exceptional, some not so exceptional. We checked around for the most exceptional airline to accommodate our bountiful luggage, need for non-stop flight and comfort and security.
El Al was the easy choice – on paper that is. In practice, the airline of Israel that came into existence in 1948 — the same year as the country did, was the right choice.
Much history is associated with this very unique airline as archival images from the collection of Marvin G. Goldman, archivist of El Al, reveal:
El Al’s first scheduled passenger flight, 31 July – 1 August 1949, arrives at Orly Airport, Paris.
Shimon Peres, then director general of Israel’s Ministry of Defense and later prime miniister, boarding an El Al Lockheed Constellation aircraft at Lod Airport, Tel Aviv
Leaving the United States and then returning from Tel Aviv back home, from our dealings with flight bookings, through the baggage handling, the seamless security checks, the well prepared food, the courtesy and professionalism of all crew members, everything was over the top A-plus.
The only blip was El Al is “dark” on the Jewish Sabbath and on religious holidays. There are never any scheduled flights. A very small blip for us.
We also experienced first-hand the special security associated with the airline of Israel, There were many questions asked at different stops along the way from checking in to baggage check. All operated seamlessly in a system of security procedures, on the ground and on the aircraft. Passengers are requested to show up three hours before departure. All El Al terminals around the world are closely monitored for security. There are plain-clothes agents and fully armed police or military personnel patrolling the premises for explosives, unusual behavior, threats. Inside the terminal, passengers and their baggage are checked by a trained team. El Al security procedures require that all passengers be interviewed individually prior to boarding. All of this was done swifly, painlessly and reassured us about safety.
Most El Al pilots are former Israeli Air Force pilots, and they operate out of cockpits with double doors, making for added security. There are reinforced steel floors that act as a barrier between the passenger cabin and baggage storage.
El Al boasts the most nonstop flights between New York (JFK/Newark) and Israel as well as the only nonstop service from Los Angeles. In June 2015, non-stop service from Boston to Tel Aviv was put into place. Globally, EL AL has more than 40 destinations from Israe. Dozens of other destinations are reachable via its partnering with other leading carriers.
There are all kinds of choices we make in life. Flying El Al to and from its homeland is a non brainer all the time.