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Israel is a popular destination for American tourists as well as VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) travelers. It’s also a fairly complicated award trip to book, as the award charts of different airlines place Israel in different regions.

Since the most valuable points are those earned in flexible transfer programs, we thought it would be helpful look at each one of them (starting with the Starwood Preferred Guest program), and find out which of their partners is the best one to transfer your points to.

As a reminder, through June 30 the Starwood Amex personal and business credit cards are offering an increased bonus of 30,000 Starpoints (after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months). If you’re looking for Starpoints to get you to Israel (or elsewhere), these bonuses can help.

Whether your a tourist or visiting family, Israel is a popular destination for award flights.

Whether you’re a tourist or visiting family, Israel is a popular destination for award flights (image courtesy of Shutterstock).

Special considerations for award trips to Israel

There are only five airports in North America with non-stop service to Israel:

  • New York: JFK: Delta and El Al
  • Newark: United and El Al
  • Toronto: El Al and Air Canada
  • Philadelphia: US Airways
  • Los Angeles: El Al

Residents of those cities might be lucky enough to find one of the scarce award seats on a non-stop flight if their itineraries are flexible and they plan far in advance. Otherwise, they should be content to book an award trip with a single stop. If you’re originating anywhere else, you have the option of making a single connection in one of these cities, or perhaps in Europe. Nevertheless, having to make two connections to visit Israel on an award ticket is common.

Going to Israel, you’ll almost certainly be on an overnight flight across the Atlantic. If you change planes in Europe, you’ll still arrive in Tel Aviv mid-day or in the evening. The return flights can be much more difficult. Most flights from Europe to North America leave mid-day. To connect to those flights, many European carriers have departures from Tel Aviv between 4am and 6am, which is terribly arduous for travelers.

Thankfully, US Airways flight 797 (which departs Tel Aviv at 11:30 pm) and United’s flight 91 (at 10:40 pm) are rare westbound transatlantic red-eyes that arrive in the United States early the next morning.  Most El Al westbound flights depart at night as well.

Most flights between North America and Israel involve a red-eye flight (image courtesy of Shutterstock).

Best Starwood Transfer Partners For Award Travel To Israel

Air Canada 
Air Canada is a Star Alliance partner with an award chart that charges 80,000 miles round trip in coach, 165,000 miles in business, and a whopping 230,000 miles in international first class. One-way awards can be booked for half price, and fuel surcharges are added for flights on Adria, Air Canada, Austrian, Lufthansa, and TAP Portugal. LOT Polish has fuel surcharges, but they’re pretty low. On the other hand, flights on Aegean, Brussels, Croatia, SAS, Singapore (which flies from JFK to Frankfurt), Swiss, Turkish, and United have no fuel surcharges. Another advantage is that lap child infant awards are a fixed price from $50-$125, rather than 10% of the coach price.

Alaska considers tickets to Israel to be part of their Africa, Middle East, and India Awards, and the miles required depends on the partner you fly. You can include flights on Alaska on a partner award in order to connect to a gateway, but you can’t use more than one partner.  One way awards are only available when booking on Air France/KLM and British Airways. The round-trip award prices are as follows:

  • Air France/KLM is 80,000 miles in coach and 140,000 in business.
  • British Airways is 100,000 miles in coach, 120,000 in premium economy, 140,000 in business, and 160,000 in first. Note that large fuel surcharges will be imposed.
  • Delta is 85,000 miles in coach and 140,000 in business.
  • Korean is 100,000 miles in coach and 140,000 in business. Furthermore, it’s the only Asian carrier to offer service to Tel Aviv (if you feel like going the long way around the world). Note that many blackout dates apply.

This SkyTeam carrier classifies Israel as part of “Europe 3 and Middle East” on its latest partner award chart, it costs 50,000 miles round trip in coach and 100,000 in business. Its old partner award chart (which is only valid until the end of June) lists business class as only 80,000 miles round trip. Awards are round-trip only, and fuel surcharges apply.

This Star Alliance carrier has a distance based award chart, so round-trip flights to Israel totaling less than 14,000 miles (generally from east of the Mississippi) will cost 60,000 miles in coach, 90,000 miles in business, and 140,000 miles in first. If the total flight distance is more than 14,000 miles, the ticket costs 65,000 miles in coach, 105,000 miles in business, and 160,000 miles in first.

Asia Miles
This OneWorld carrier has a distance based award chart that also has a break at 14,000 miles round trip distance traveled.  The cost works out to 85/115/155 east of the Mississippi, and 90/135/190 to the west for coach, business, and first class, respectively. There are fuel surcharges, and one way awards are not allowed.

Here is the American Airlines partner award chart. American’s program is unique in that it’s the only way to redeem awards on El Al other than using miles in El Al’s Matmid program. Unfortunately, El Al award space can’t be searched online unless you pay to become a member of Matmid. That said, their award space is not very generous, especially in the premium classes, but American Airlines representatives can search for it on your behalf over the phone.  There are no fuel surcharges on American Airlines awards, with the notable exception of British Airways.

American's AAdvantage program is the only way to redeem awards on El Al, other than using miles in El Al's Matmid program.

American’s AAdvantage program is the only way to redeem awards on El Al, other than using miles in El Al’s Matmid program.

British Airways
The British Airways Avios award chart is distance based, so the points required depend on the miles flown. For example, the leg between London and Tel Aviv is 2,233 miles, so just that segment costs 25,000 miles round-trip for coach and 50,000 for business (there is no first class on that route). In addition, you’ll have to add on the flight to North America. Flights between 3,000 and 4,000 miles, which includes flights to London from Chicago, Washington D.C., and cities to their northeast, are 40/60/80/120 in coach, premium economy, business, and first, respectively. Beyond that distance the cost goes up to 50/75/100/150. You can mix and match classes of service on various flights, and you can book one way awards. Nevertheless, expect BA’s outrageous fuel surcharges as well as UK departure taxes when you stay more than 24 hours in London.

This SkyTeam carrier offers daily service from JFK to Tel Aviv, but with notoriously few award seats at the lowest mileage levels, which is 85,000 miles in coach and 140,000 in business, according to their current award chart. Nevertheless, awards on partners such as Air France, KLM, and Alitalia can be booked with no fuel surcharges. One way awards are unavailable this year, but will be possible for awards ticketed on or after January 1st, 2015.

Flying Blue
This program is part of SkyTeam, and represents both Air France and KLM. Notably, Israel is considered part of Europe for the purposes of their award charts. Awards are 50,000 miles for economy, 100,000 miles for premium economy, and 125,000 miles for business class. Another interesting aspect is that Promo Awards are frequently available for 25-50% off the standard mileage, but only from select destinations. For example, Boston awards in coach are currently 25% off, and Houston is 50% off. A new list is offered each quarter. Fuel surcharges apply, and one way awards are available.

Flying Blue Promo awards can be the way to visit Israel with the fewest miles.

Flying Blue Promo awards can be the way to visit Israel with the fewest miles.

Japan Airlines (a OneWorld partner) has a distance based chart with cutoffs at 12,000 and 14,000 miles round-trip. So flights to Israel from New York, Philadelphia, and other parts of the Northeast can be had for 50/65/80/115, while much of the Midwest and Northwest fall into the next category of flights between 12,000 -14,000 miles, which cost  55/70/85/135.  Flights from most southwestern states are above 14,000 miles round trip, so the prices are 60/80/100/155. One-way awards are permitted, but fuel surcharges are generally imposed.

This OneWorld partner is interesting because it uses a distance based chart in the form of LANPass kilometers. Furthermore, Starwood points transfer at a rate of 1:1.5, so those who need to fly less than 10,000 kilometers to Israel have slightly lower prices than those who need to travel over 10,000 km. One way awards are available, and there are fuel surcharges.

This SkyTeam carrier has a partner award chart of 80/120/160. Even though Korean does offer its own service to Tel Aviv from Seoul, it’s not priced competitively for connecting flights from North America to Israel.

Miles and More
Miles and More is the frequent flier program for Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, LOT Polish, and several other smaller carriers in the Star Alliance.  The prices on its award chart for travel between North America and Israel are 80/135/210. Interestingly, Israel is considered part of Europe in their award chart, but only for Israeli citizens and residents, and only for flights originating in Israel. Fuel surcharges apply, and one way flights are available.

This Star Alliance carrier has a partner award chart  that prices flights to Israel at 75/115/150, offers one way flights, and adds fuel surcharges.

US Airways
US Airways has a daily non-stop to Tel Aviv from Philadelphia, although most observers believe that flight is likely to move to JFK or Miami as the carrier is absorbed by American Airlines. For the moment, you can book partner award flights on OneWorld carriers, as well as some Star Alliance partners including Turkish Airlines, which offers service to Tel Aviv. Awards are priced at 80/120/180. One way awards are not permitted, and there are no fuel surcharges except on flights operated by British Airways.

Virgin Atlantic
Delta awards can be booked at the rate of  80/120.

Other carriers and SPG Flights
There are other Starwood transfer partners, but they either don’t serve Israel, or their partner award charts are not at all competitive. Starwood also offers a fare-based redemption program called SPG Flights, which allows you to redeem Starpoints directly for airfare on most major carriers. While the redemption rate is generally poor, you can find good value when the cash price of travel happens to be low, since SPG Flights might offer a better rate than other airline award charts. Tickets purchased through SPG Flights avoid fuel surcharges and earn miles, so consider those factors when determining whether the price is right.

The old town of Jaffa (image courtesy of Shutterstock).


As promised, Israel is not a simple destination to get to with miles. The best transfer partner for flights to Israel all depends on the class of service you want to travel, and whether or not you’re willing to pay fuel surcharges to reduce the number of miles required.

To travel to Israel in coach with the fewest Starpoints, you need to be lucky enough to find a a promo award with the Flying Blue program. In fact, you can currently fly from Houston for 25,000 miles round trip, albeit with fuel surcharges. That’s a mere 20,000 Starpoints when you factor in the 5,000 point bonus for transferring 20,000 points at once.

The next best awards are the standard 50,000 mile round-trip awards with SkyTeam partners Flying Blue and Alitalia. JAL can match that, but only from parts of the northeast that are within 6,000 miles of Tel Aviv. In the Star Alliance, ANA is best with coach awards for 60-65,000 miles depending on distance.

If avoiding fuel surcharges is the top priority, choose US Airways awards at 80k or American at 90k, so long as you avoid BA. Delta awards are 85k, whether you book them through Alaska or the SkyMiles program.

Premium economy
Premium economy awards are now offered by some OneWorld carriers, starting at 65,000 -80,000 miles on JAL. This could make sense if there isn’t availability in business class, or you just can scrounge up the 15-20,000 extra miles for a business class award.

Business class
Business class is certainly in a sweet spot in terms of price and comfort for a trip this long. Of course, if you can find a Flying Blue Promo award for 50,000 miles, that will be your best deal. After that, JAL’s OneWorld awards from the Northeast are only 80k, and even the Midwest are only 85k, which are also great deals except for the fuel surcharges. ANA’s 90k Star Alliance awards from the East Coast are also competitive, but they do have fuel surcharges.

Travelers on the West Coast can’t do better than the 100k Alitalia business class award, which is actually only 80k if you can book it before the end of June! Flying Blue standard awards are also 100k due to Israel being considered part of Europe. To avoid fuel surcharges, you must move up to a 120k US Airways award or a 135k American Award.

First Class
El Al is the only Airline that offers first class service to Israel from the United States, but this award is not available from American. The next best option might be a BA award using a “Travel Together” certificate earned by spending $30,000 on the Chase British Airways Visa. Both passengers will still pay taxes, fees, and  fuel surcharges, but the points used can be as few as 170,000 round-trip for two. Furthermore, BA now has a strong business class product between London and Tel Aviv, while other European carriers serve Tel Aviv with a business class that is just coach with an empty middle seat. Otherwise, you could go with a JAL award using BA or American flights that have a first class cabin, which prices at 115k from the Northeast. Finally, a Singapore award is 150k, which you can use on Lufthansa’s first class, or Singapore’s first class flight between JFK and Frankfurt.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • DS

    AA does not have access to El AL First Class awards. Just Economy and Business

  • ryan

    Air Canada will begin flying the 787 YYZ>TLV in a few months

  • Jason Steele

    You are correct, I’ll fix that

  • SeaBee3

    Flying Blue is 125,000 in business to Israel. The old chart (from last year) was 100,000 miles.

  • Liam Gandelsman

    Wouldn’t fly El-Al economy (waaaayyy to cramped). Business is ok but still last gen really (i.e. no lie flat and a 2x2x2 configuration if I’m remembering correctly). Never flown them in first but since you can’t get first on award anyways that doesn’t really matter for this post. My best flight experience to Israel has been non-stop from EWR with Delta, and from BOS via LHR with British Airways (both in economy)

  • Anonymous

    My best flight experience to Israel…was not from the US. Took the 2 hour El Al flight from Athens – less than 20 min through check in/security questioning (vs. the hour plus for El Al’s flights from JFK), half-empty 737, and barely a customs line upon arrival in Tel Aviv.

  • cotoneloc

    I just flew the UAL 90/91 from EWR>TLV>EWR which has it’s pros and cons. Cons: Equipment is a 777 in 3x3x3 which means someones in the middle if you’re flying with a companion. Economy Plus is no different than economy outside of a few inches of legroom. Food was pretty awful and United doesn’t offer complimentary drinks. Pros: The schedules of these legs are ideal as they allow you to work a full day in NY on the day of the departure, catch some good sleep on the 12 hour flight, and arrive in Tel Aviv with enough time to make it to Jerusalem in time to welcome Shabbat at the Western Wall. The 10:40pm return departure is also ideal as it allows you to squeeze what feels like a free extra day as you don’t need to leave Tel Aviv until about 7:00pm. I happened to spend my “bonus” day on the beach in Tel Aviv. If you happen to fly this leg, or the 12:20am Delta to JFK, I highly recommend extending your room, perhaps with SPG “Your 24″ so that you have a place to shower before heading to the airport. At 14 hours, the flight home is pretty long but this allows you to get some solid sleep so you’re rested when you land, even if it is only 4am.

  • Avi

    Using Miles & More originating from the US, they charge 92K one-way per business class ticket. Something about transiting Europe, even it’s just a stopover.
    The problem with BA (for the most part) is the connections are poorly timed.

  • Jason Steele

    Cool stuff!

  • Jason Steele

    I did LHR-TLV in El Al economy on a 777 and was pleasantly surprised. Good food and in-flight entertainment. It was 9 across, not the high density 10 that American and Air Canada are going to.

  • Liam Gandelsman

    I guess I was referring more to the pitch between the seats, as I recall it was pretty crammed like that. Though I do agree that American is worse, never flown Air Canada though.

  • Jason Steele

    I think it varies quite a bit in their fleet. They have some ancient 767s from the 80s as well as some 777s that still smell new. I wasn’t looking forward to coach after arriving in LHR in BA F, but I have certainly flown worse.

  • Liam Gandelsman

    Hmm, good to know!

  • Bill Rubin

    My husband and I flew in Dec 2012 using 100,000 Flying Blue miles (transfer from Membership Rewards) to fly roundtrip business class to/from Israel (LAX-JFK-TLV outbound on Delta, TLV-CDG-LAX on AF). Delta was fine, but seating/food/service was not impressive compared to United in my opinion. AF was actually not better, but for the miles used we both felt it was fine–we got to where we wanted, though with angled flat seats on AF. As normal United/Star Alliance Gold flyers, we still think United biz is better than Delta for the hard product. The lack of Delta first class keeps us with United/Star most of the time, since United GlobalFirst is far superior to Delta BusinessElite. AF wasn’t too impressive, either, but you take what you can get. United availability was terrible out of EWR, so we went with AF/DL.

  • Bill Rubin

    For this Oct, we are instead (see below) flying using 125,000 AF miles (from Amex MR transfer again) to fly LAX-CDG in AF Business on the A380, stay in Paris for 3 nights as a stopover, and then continuing onto TLV on AF Business–it cost just $75 per person to create the 3 night Paris stopover, plus $532 in taxes for both of us. We wanted to avoid Delta Business and try the AF A380 Business. For the return, we are using 70,000 UA miles for TLV-IST on Turkish Business to have a 3 night stopover in Istanbul, then flying onto LHR on Turkish Business. We fly home LHR-LAX on BA First on their A380 using just 150,000 Avios (from Amex MR transfer with 40% bonus) for the 2 of us plus $1,223 in fuel/taxes. We don’t mind paying BA fuel surcharges when we get First Class, and we used Barclay Arrival for all taxes, so we managed to get most credited.

  • lori bremner

    Great info and very timely for me. Thanks! Any chance you could include information in which carriers allow free stopovers on their FF tickets? I’m hoping to add a few days at a fun destination in both directions

  • ThorneStockton

    If you are looking to stopover, you could consider booking your award to some place like Istanbul or Cyprus which are considered Europe for many of the programs and thus have lower mileage requirements and then book a low cost carrier over to TLV.

    That’s what I’m doing using United miles and actually added an ‘official’ stop in Vienna on the way home.

  • lori bremner

    Great suggestion Thorne? Any other ideas of which carriers allow free stopovers on FF tix?

  • AirCanada F/A

    Air Canada 787 dreamliner is scheduled to go to TLV on the 6th of August.

  • TravelerTim

    I would highly discourage anyone from traveling to Israel. Israel is an apartheid state. The (illegal) occupation of Palestine and the atrocities that they carry out on Palestinians is truly what terrorism is. Until they withdraw and remove the settlements and allow Palestinians to return to their homes, this frequent traveler boycotts Israel.

  • Eyal Shani

    I need to fly with family (wife & 1Y twins) SFO to TLV.
    I have 300K points on Lufhansa & 6K on Elal.
    Also, have some 60K visa points on credit card…
    How do I navigate the zoo of choices out there? What is your recommendations?

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