Welcome to my review from Phuket to Tel Aviv!
After catching a Grab from my hotel to the airport, I arrived for check in around 3.5hrs early. El Al has stringent security procedures, and I was subject to a thorough questioning by the head of security before eventually being cleared to check in.
I was assigned a window seat and told that we would be boarding from Gate 81, a bus gate. I headed for security. Thailand is very strict on passengers carrying power banks in carry on baggage, so make sure you have your capacity of your power bank clearly stated. Thankfully security were incredibly friendly and before long I was on the way to the gate.
I arrived early, so had plenty of time for sightseeing, including seeing the plane for the first time from a distance.
Today I was fortunate to be flying on 4X-ECE, El Al's first refurbished 777. It was its first flight being refurbished from Phuket to Tel Aviv. All seats have been replaced with a brand new cabin - which has just been reviewed by The Points Guy https://thepointsguy.com/news/el-al-boeing-777-new-cabins/.
Boarding was supposed to start at 3:25pm - 45 minutes before takeoff but due to a slightly late arrival of the aircraft boarding only commenced around 3:50pm. Boarding was disorganised with passengers all boarding at the same time. The bus gate also delayed boarding, as we needed around 6 buses to board the entire plane, which took a while to be fully organised. Buses were also not taking off at full capacity, slowing things down further.
Boarding via bus gate did have its perks though. We went past other planes, including an Emirates Boeing 777 that had recently arrived from Dubai.
Before long we reached the ride for today.
4X-ECE was glowing in the sunshine. Although the seats have been replaced, everything else including the paint (more to come on that) has stayed the same. There has been no repaint of the aircraft, so the tail still bears El Al's old livery.
Boarding was via the front door. I was seated in the 3rd row of economy, although the 1st row only consists of 3 seats in the middle so it was more like the 2nd row of economy on my side.
The seat is the same seat as on El Al's 787s, offering 18.5 inches of pitch. Every seat includes an in-seat entertainment screen with a USB and USB C port. Of note, in seat power has been removed on economy to accomodate for more seats (3-4-3) in economy, but this is no major loss as USB C can charge most devices these days.
There are also no in-seat vents in economy, so air flow is highly restricted.
Although this was a day flight, each passenger was provided an amenity kit containing an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste and ear plugs. This was a handy touch from El Al, especially considering this plane is still 17 years old, so does not have the quietness or technology which El Al's 787s contain.
Mood lighting was also switched on during boarding.
Boarding was completed about 15 mins after planned push back time. Today was a full flight which makes sense as to why El Al deployed a tourist heavy plane configuration onto this route. Flight time today was announced at 8hrs and 5 minutes due to tail winds.
We had some further delays before push back but eventually pushed back at around 4:50pm before making our way to Runway 27 for takeoff.
After letting an Air China 737 Max 8 land we went to the end of the runway and performed a 360 degree turn to maximise the amount of runway space available due to being a full flight.
At 5:01pm 41 minutes behind schedule we took off.
Takeoff was smooth and before long we were tracking west heading towards Israel.
After takeoff I visited the lavatories. As you can see below they are not refurbished (press to use the tap) but were clean.
When I got back the drinks service had already started. I grabbed a bottle of water and pretzels and tried to connect to the wifi.
Unfortunately Wifi has not been enabled on flights to the East. I passed the time playing soccer on the screen until the first meal service arrived.
There was only 1 option for all economy passengers, chicken and rice with hummus, pita, salad and apple strudel.
Flights from Phuket are catered out of El Al's Bangkok kitchen, so are still quite fresh and the meal was good quality.
We then chased the sunset the rest of the flight, continuing over Oman and Saudi Arabia thanks to their recent opening of airspaces to flights to Israel.
Passing over Saudi Arabia.
Around 2hrs before landing the second meal service started. The catering is designed for an overnight flight, so the 2nd meal served was "breakfast" even though it was around 7pm at night Israel time / 10pm Phuket time.
Included: omelette with tomatoes & potatoes, fruit, salad, muffin, jam.
Flight attendants came around with coffee & tea.
Despite being an odd hour for breakfast, the food was still of high quality.
We started descending at around 8:30pm.
After looping over northern Israel to allow a Wizz Air plane to land ahead of us, we eventually touched down on runway 21 at 8:55pm, 20 minutes early due to the tailwinds propelling us throughout the flight.
We had a short taxi to our gate however luggage was delayed due to our full flight and I was checked for drugs, so did not leave the airport until around 10pm.
El Al is certainly improving. This was my first El Al 777, and I would certainly come back even without wifi or in seat power. In seat vents missing are a bit annoying, but would only affect passengers on an overnight flight. There has also been some reductions in catering as only 1 meal option is available for all passengers unless you request a special meal. That being said, El Al has certainly upped its game, particularly with the in flight entertainment, and for the right price I would fly them in the future. It also helps that they are the only carrier to fly direct from Thailand to Israel (Bangkok & Phuket).