Delta doubles down on Tel Aviv with second flight sporting snazzy new cabins
The competition for the Tel Aviv market is heating up.
With much of the world closed to Americans, U.S. airlines are taking a measured approach to resuming long-haul flying. Some flights are profitable with cargo alone, but there's not enough demand to warrant flying as many routes during the pandemic.
However, there's one transatlantic market that isn't showing any signs of cooling down, and that's Israel. Delta is the latest carrier to make some exciting updates to its Tel Aviv flying.
Starting on Jan. 15, 2021, the Atlanta-based carrier will fly one of its newest jets — the Airbus A330-900neo — from JFK to Tel Aviv, as confirmed by Cirium, an aviation data and analytics company. And that's a big deal because it means that Delta will finally bring its top-notch onboard experience to the market.
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Delta's Airbus A330-900neo features 281 seats across three cabins: business, premium economy and coach. The 29-seat biz cabin is outfitted with Delta One Suites, offering a private, enclosed suite with plenty of space to sleep, eat and work.
Premium Select is Delta's take on premium economy — and this will be the airline's first time offering the cabin to Tel Aviv. Expect an experience similar to domestic first class in one of the 28 recliner seats.
The A330-900's coach cabin is split between 56 seats in the extra-legroom Comfort+ section and 168 standard Main Cabin seats.
The aircraft also features a new wireless in-flight entertainment system developed internally by Delta, as well as high-speed 2Ku Wi-Fi connectivity.
Delta has long offered service between New York and Tel Aviv, most recently with the Airbus A330-300. That jet is an older variant of the A330 family and doesn't sport a premium economy cabin. Plus, the biz seats on the A330-300 are simply standard reverse herringbone ones — not Delta One Suites.
The upgauge isn't the only change Delta is making to its Tel Aviv flying. As of Dec. 12, the carrier will add a second daily frequency between JFK and Tel Aviv, per Cirium data. Between Dec. 12 and Jan. 15, both flights will be operated by the older Airbus A330-300. But starting Jan. 15, the following frequency will sport the new cabins on the Airbus A330-900neo:
- DL 234 JFK - TLV 11:39 p.m. - 5:10 p.m. (the next day)
- DL 235 TLV - JFK 11:55 p.m. - 5:25 a.m. (the next day)
Of course, the schedule is subject to change — especially as coronavirus-related travel restrictions are extended. The new flight is currently loaded in the schedule and ready to book, but there's limited award availability, unfortunately.
For now, most Americans aren't allowed to visit Israel. Only pre-registered students, as well as family members celebrating certain life cycle events, are allowed to enter with a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Israeli citizens are allowed to enter with a mandatory quarantine too. To stay abreast of Israel's reopening, be sure to follow our country-by-country guide to reopening.
Related: Review of Delta One Suites on the A330-900neo
Delta's move is the latest update U.S. airlines have made to their Tel Aviv flights. Earlier this summer, United announced a new route to Tel Aviv from its Chicago hub. The three weekly Chicago O'Hare (ORD) flights join United's existing service from Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington (IAD).
United's Chicago-to-Tel Aviv flight follows years of expansion in the Tel Aviv market. In addition to twice-daily service from its Newark hub, United launched thrice-weekly San Francisco-to-Tel Aviv flights in March 2016. United followed with moves that suggest the flights were profitable, quickly upgrading to daily service later that same year. (The carrier also upgauged the aircraft from a Boeing 787-9 to a brand-new Boeing 777-300ER.)
Then last year, United started serving Tel Aviv from the nation’s capital. The Washington Dulles flight was the carrier’s fourth route to the country.
Related: Why United’s plan to fly 23 weekly flights to Israel isn’t as surprising as it seems
American Airlines also plans to reenter the Tel Aviv market in 2021. As part of its new strategic alliance with JetBlue, AA announced that it'll start flying to Tel Aviv from JFK next summer and from Dallas/Fort Worth that winter. This will be the first time American has flown to Israel since it suspended its Philadelphia to Tel Aviv route in 2016. It's not yet clear what plane AA will fly to Tel Aviv.
All this expansion comes at a time when Israel's national airline, El Al, is in trouble. The carrier has effectively "closed" due to the pandemic. Before the coronavirus, El Al was expanding stateside with service to Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando (in addition to existing flights to Boston, JFK, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark and San Francisco).
Now, with El Al grounded for the foreseeable future, the U.S. carriers are trying to assert their position as the dominant player to Tel Aviv. United offers the most seats of the "Big 3," but with Delta's latest move, loyalists will now have a second daily frequency outfitted with the best seats the carrier offers.