Israel is a very popular destination for a variety of types of travelers, from those seeking to connect with their religious roots to anyone looking for beautiful beaches and sunshine. Depending on the time of year, you can see a desert in bloom, enjoy beautiful beaches or snow in the Golan Heights.
You can visit countless historic and religious sites, celebrate various religious holidays and traditions, see gay pride parades held in almost every major city, or just observe the hustle and bustle of everyday life. One thing is certain: you will never get bored!
I fly to Israel at least once a year, sometimes twice. And in today’s article I’ll share what I’ve learned about booking award flights and my favorite ways to get there with points and miles.
1 Direct Flights to Israel
2 Using United MileagePlus Miles for Award FlightsFinding
2.1 Award Space on Star Alliance Partners with United Miles
2.1.a. Austrian Airlines
2.1.b. LOT Polish Airlines
2.1.d. Turkish Airlines
2.2 How to Earn United Miles
2.3 Cards to Help You Earn United Miles
3 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
3.1 How to Earn KrisFlyer Miles
3.2 Cards to Help You Earn Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
4 Air Canada Aeroplan
4.1 How to Earn Aeroplan Miles
4.2 Cards to Help You Earn Aeroplan Miles
5 Aegean Airlines
5.1 How to Earn Aegean Miles
5.2 Cards to Help You Earn Aegean Miles
Direct Flights to Israel
Award flights to Israel aren’t easy to find, especially if you want to fly in business class. There aren’t a lot of direct flights and since Israel is such a popular tourist destination, finding award seats on direct flights might be challenging. If you are planning a trip to Israel during one of the major Jewish holidays, book your tickets well in advance.
Here’s a list of nonstop flights from the U.S. to Israel:
From the East Coast you can fly nonstop from the following cities:
- Boston on El Al
- New York, Newark on United or El Al
- New York, JFK on Delta or El Al
- Washington DC on United (coming in May 2019)
- Miami on El Al
From the West Coast:
- Los Angeles on El Al
- San Francisco on United
El Al also has non-stop flights from Toronto. Air Canada flies non-stop from Montreal and Toronto.
Using United MileagePlus Miles for Award Flights
One of my favorite ways to get award flights to Israel is by using United miles. Even when I can’t find nonstop flights from the East Coast, I could always find something on partner airlines. United is a part of Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world, so that opens up many more opportunities to find award space.
These are one-way award rates for flights to Israel. You will need more United miles to fly on any of the United partners in business class. Because it’s such a long flight, I prefer to fly to Israel in business class.
|Class of Service||United Flights||Star Alliance Flights|
|Economy||42,500 miles||42,500 miles|
|Business||75,000 miles||85,000 miles|
Searching for award space on United Airlines is easy. Just put in your dates, and if you have a flexible schedule, click on the view 30-day calendar link to see more dates with available flights.
If you have elite status on United or have one of United credit cards, don’t forget to log in before searching for flights. If you need a domestic connection, United shows more domestic economy award space to its own elites and credit card holders.
United doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges, so you only have to pay the (very low) taxes.
As you can see, there are quite a few dates where partner award flights in business class are available. I searched for tickets from Newark, which has two nonstop Tel Aviv flights a day, but I didn’t find any direct flights with available award space in business class.
United operates nonstop flights to Tel Aviv out of San Francisco and Newark that were recently retrofitted with the new Polaris seat. It’s a very nice business class product with spacious seats, beautiful bedding and really nice food. The new Washington IAD to Tel Aviv flight is supposed to have the new Polaris seats as well.
Flying on the direct Newark flight is by far my favorite way to get to Israel. It takes the least amount of time and I don’t have to connect in Europe.
To reiterate my earlier point, if you prefer to fly direct, and would like to experience United Polaris business class, make sure to book early. I ran my search several times, going as far out as the edge of the calendar would allow and couldn’t find a single direct flight from Newark to Tel Aviv! United does open up additional award space sometimes, so search often or set up Expert Flyer alerts.
When I ran the search again, with Washington Dulles as a departure airport, I was able to find sporadic availability on this newer route in both economy and business class.
Finding Award Space on Star Alliance Partners with United Miles
If you can’t find award space on the nonstop flights, don’t worry, as there are other options. As mentioned above, United is part of Star Alliance and you can fly to Israel on a few of its partners. In fact, you can use United Miles to book award tickets to Israel and never set foot on United aircraft!
Here are my favorite options for award flights to Israel with a stopover in Europe.
Austrian operates direct flights to Vienna from a few major international airports and opens up a good amount of award space to partners. The connections in Vienna are easy – it’s a very efficient airport.
You can often find multiple award seats in the Austrian business class, which is perfect if you are traveling as a family. Service in both economy and business class is great and there’s even a chef on board who prepares meals in business class.
The only thing I dislike about Austrian is its intra-Europe (Vienna to Tel Aviv) business class. It’s basically an economy seat with the middle seat blocked off. You get slightly better food and you don’t feel as cramped as you would in the economy. It’s not a deal breaker, however, for a four-hour flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv.
Here’s an example of an itinerary that shows three award seats with a connection in Vienna:
LOT Polish Airlines
LOT also opens up a good amount of award space in both the economy and business to its Star Alliance partners. LOT operates a modern fleet and has convenient connection times in Warsaw.
Another great airline with consistently good service is Lufthansa which sometimes opens up a good amount of award space, especially close to departure. Lufthansa operates direct flights from a few major U.S. airports to Frankfurt and Munich with connections to Israel. It also operates a Frankfurt to Detroit route, which is a good option for someone who lives in the Midwest.
Both Munich and Frankfurt are very modern airports with lots of shopping, dining and lounge options to kill time between flights.
Turkish is also a good option for award flights to Israel. It has lie-flat seats in business class and multiple Tel Aviv flights a day from Istanbul, so the connection times are usually good. Turkish opens up a lot of award availability to its Star Alliance partners.
When I was writing this article, I ran a sample award search less than a month out and found three seats in business class!
If I have to fly to Israel and connect in Europe, SWISS is my favorite Star Alliance partner. In addition to an excellent business class cabin on the U.S.- Zurich route, SWISS has the same lie-flat seats in business class on its Zurich to Tel Aviv flights.
And flight attendants pass out Swiss chocolates in the middle of the flight. If that’s not enough chocolate for you, there are a few places in Zurich Kloten airport where you can stock up on more amazing Swiss chocolate.
How to Earn United Miles
United miles are easy to earn. You can collect a good amount of United miles from welcome bonuses on United Explorer and United Explorer Business cards.
United also has a robust shopping portal that runs lots of bonus spending promotions especially around major holidays and during back to school time.
You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards Points; these points transfer to United Miles at a 1:1 ratio.
Cards to Help You Earn United Miles
Since United is a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, this will be your go-to way to earn United miles. Additionally, Chase issues co-branded United cards that can also be useful.
Chase Ink Business Preferred
80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $5,000 in 3 monthsLearn more
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Of course, United is not the only program you can use to book award flights on Star Alliance. Singapore Airlines is another Star Alliance partner and its KrisFlyer miles can be used to book award tickets to Israel.
These are the one-way award rates for flights to Israel.
|Class of Service||Miles Needed|
As you can see, it doesn’t make sense to book awards in economy with KrisFlyer miles, as they require fewer miles on United. However, you can save a good chunk of miles by booking business class flights on Singapore.
Just a few months ago, I booked a reward ticket on United in Polaris business class with 69,000 KrisFlyer miles, thus saving 6,000 miles compared to United!
Singapore does pass on fuel surcharges for partners that have them. Fuel surcharges will be higher for premium cabin awards.
You can search for award space on United then search and book with Singapore once you’ve narrowed down your travel dates. To search with Singapore, log into your account and click on Redeem Flights. Enter your travel dated and desired class of service.
Occasionally, Singapore won’t show space that shows on United. If that happens, call Singapore to book. If the award space is available but not showing on Singapore’s site, make sure the phone booking fee is waived.
I performed the same search on Singapore’s site as I did on United’s. As you can see, the taxes and fuel surcharges are $232.90. United’s taxes are only $11.30 for the exact same itinerary.
Here’s an itinerary on LOT with much lower taxes.
How to Earn KrisFlyer Miles
KrisFlyer miles are easy to earn. Singapore is a transfer partner of all four major transferrable currencies:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points and American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio
- Capital One miles transfer at 2:1 ratio (don’t do this)
Cards to Help You Earn Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
Cards that help you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points such as Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred as well as cards that help you earn Amex Membership Rewards points and Citi ThankYou Points give you plenty of options to earn Singapore KrisFlyer miles.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada is part of Star Alliance and its loyalty program could be very useful when booking award travel to Israel.
These are one-way award rates for flights to Israel.
|Class of Service||Miles Needed|
|Premium Economy||67,500 miles|
As you can see, economy awards are cheaper if booked with Aeroplan. Aeroplan charges high fuel surcharges on some partners (Lufthansa and Austrian), low surcharges on LOT, and no surcharges on Turkish, SWISS or United. Ironically, Aeroplan levies high fuel surcharges on its own Air Canada flights.
You can search for award space on United and call Aeroplan to book. It’s easy, however, to search on Aeroplan website.
Login, click on Book Travel, and then select Flights. You can search for one-way or round-trip awards.
On the results page, you’ll see available reward space and you can switch back and forth between economy and business class awards. If you leave the Display Mixed Cabin checked, Aeroplan will show you mixed cabin tickets (economy and premium cabin on the same award).
Here’s an example of an itinerary on Swiss, one of the partners with no fuel surcharges.
How to Earn Aeroplan Miles
Aeroplan has some credit card transfer partners:
- American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Aeroplan at a 1: 1 ratio. Keep an eye out for transfer bonuses that pop up from time to time
- Capital One miles transfer at 2:1.5 ratio
- Marriott is also a transfer partner: 60,000 Marriott points will transfer for 25,000 Aeroplan miles
Cards to Help You Earn Aeroplan Miles
American Express has a few great Membership Reward earning cards, including American Express Gold Card and The Platinum Card from American Express. Capital One Venture Card and Capital One Spark Miles Card are also good options if you need Aeroplan miles.
Aegean is one of lesser known frequent flyer programs that, nevertheless, has great award rates on Star Alliance carriers. Like other programs discussed here, Aegean has a zone-based award chart and considers Israel to be a part of the North Africa region.
These are one-way award rates for flights to Israel.
|Class of Service||Miles Needed|
To book a flight with Aegean miles, find award availability on United or Aeroplan and call Aegean to book. Fuel surcharges are added for some partners and could be significant for premium cabins.
You can only have one connection in each direction and I see this as the biggest limitation of this program. If you are flying from a smaller regional airport you might have two connections, one in a major U.S. gateway, and another in a European city.
How to Earn Aegean Miles
Aegean is one of Marriott’s airline transfer partner but since the Marriott and SPG merger, it had become much harder to earn Aegean miles. 60,000 Marriott points will transfer for 25,000 Aegean miles.
Cards to Help You Earn Aegean Miles
SPG Luxury Card, personal and business version of SPG American Express cards are all good options to earn Marriott points that transfer to Aegean.
Note that these cards have just been re-branded as part of the Marriott and Starwood merger.
It might be challenging to get nonstop flights to Israel, especially if you are traveling as a family. But, as you can see, there are lots of options to get to Israel on points and miles if you are willing to have a layover in Europe. And, if you are connecting in Vienna or Zurich, don’t forget to stock up on delicious European chocolate!
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