David Weinrich

Low cost, fact or fiction? 

Summer will soon be upon us and Israeli wanderlust is in full flight. The recent announcement that Israel-originating flights will be given permission to overfly Saudi Arabia and, importantly, Oman has drastically reduced flight times to the near and far east, surely other airlines will follow EL AL in offering flights to India, Thailand, perhaps even the Philippines and Australia. The “Classic” way to travel, alas an early victim of Covid 19-23, the King of the Skies Boeing 747 (passenger) is no longer operated into Israel, and now many flights, even over six hours duration or more, seem to be operated by single-aisle hi-density Boeing 737s and Airbus 320 family jets.

All photos taken by this author at Ben Gurion International Airport (and free of any copyright laws) like this classic shot of a Boeing 747 Jumbo jet sailing past my (former) office window.
Competitors come and go, but today, some of the world’s biggest airlines are modern, streamlined, staff-less, cash-less, frill-less, legroom-less low-cost (LCC) operators. Most people have heard about Ryanair’s €4.99 ticket sale, although post-Covid that’s probably €9.99 now, but still a great deal. Not least because legacy carriers have jumped on the “charge for this, charge for that” business model. At the end of the day, or flight, a package including checked (hold) bag, cabin bag, seat next to one’s loved ones, a snack (I’ll come to that later), priority (speedy) boarding – whatever that’s supposed to be – that started off at €9.99 could still be a bargain at a final total closer to €99.99, if you’re lucky! Oh, and that’s one way.

Pegasus fly to Istanbul/SAW, not the refugee camp on the other side of town. A recent return trip showed that low cost needn’t mean low service, nor low quality staff. A pleasure.

Recently I have flown with three LCCs and three legacy carriers. One of the LCCs doesn’t fly to Israel, but unfortunately was the best in-flight experience, so I wont mention Volotea by name (oops).  Yes, if one is going to Milan to buy some fashion, Brussels to ummm, gosh, why, or Paris to stock up on half-decent kitchen equipment, the 23kg suitcase both ways might be necessary, and will certainly leave one “quids-in”. But Bergamo is not Milan, Charleroi is most certainly not a real place and Beauvais is not Paris. So add €100 for a taxi, or more likely, another €100 for a hotel because most LCCs always seem to land just after the departure of the last bus/train to civilization. Except at Charleroi, where there didn’t appear to be any local civilization.

ELAL (bless ’em) tried low cost(!) ’nuff said!!

On the other hand, to cater for transit passengers, which in Israel means people looking to continue to New York, most of the legacy carriers leave at dawn. That involves arriving at Ben Gurion airport (נתבג) around o’dark hundred, getting on a ‘plane around six AM and arriving at Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, Madrid wherever in time for brunch. If those happen to be your final destination, your bag should arrive to the same terminal as you do, the shops and cafes will be open and there will be ground transportation to take you to Harrods, Galleries Lafayette or the Prada. Most importantly for many, there will be room for at least one of your legs, your seat will have reclined, you will have slept or watched a movie, been fed (in most cases, even if it’s only tea or coffee) and been able to wander up and down the wide-bodied cabin.

A proper airline, with nice big aeroplanes, go business class, you’ll love it, and you might even see your bags when you arrive.

I left the in-flight “snack” comment open earlier: Some so-called legacy carriers have started charging for meals, but as far as I am aware this has not spread to flights to/from Israel. On the other hand, I recently flew with a very well represented LCC to Paris and the only available “hot” (why is that word so badly misrepresented in Israel? HOT TV? Lukewarm at best) where a mainly Orange coloured aeroplane, had just one tepid option, a Cheese & Ham sandwich? To/from Israel? Ok they were doing a roaring trade but, a little thought? On the subject of which, another certain LCC who seem to fly everywhere from Israel on their Blue & Yellow Boeings greet you in dozens of languages as you board, many in tongues from lands to which they don’t fly. Is שלום on their menu? (Answer, no)

Yeah, the Orange brigade. Take your own sandwiches but only if you’re under one and a half metres tall. You really didn’t expect a picture of the other mob did you?

At least we in Israel have a choice, many choices on some routes, and as we all know, you pays yer money & takes yer chance. EL AL is still a great option, they speak your language, you don’t expect anything at all, and on the return leg at least, the crew are desperate to get home on time. $700 round trip wit’frills, or €9.99 one way for pot luck. Sounds tempting right? Bon voyage!!

Had a very good flight with these chaps too, but I’m not sure if they class as the successor to Olympic or an LCC, either way highly recommended for the short hop to Greece.

About the Author
David Weinrich has dedicated his life to chasing military aircraft for fun, in Europe, the Americas, the Far East and for the past 27 years, at home in Israel. He photographs them, underlines them in his books (quill & parchment, please), escorts foreign "plane spotters" to the farthest corners of Israel and now writes a Blog about them for the Times of Israel.