El Al’s New Seating Confirmed!

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A few months back, I described rumors and hypotheses about the seating plans for El Al’s new 787s, arriving later this year.

El Al operates one of the most outdated and uncomfortable premium cabins of any airline on its aging long haul fleet of 747s and 777s, with angled business class seats similar to American Airlines’ old business class, and First Class seats that only recently were “upgraded” to actually lie flat, even though they don’t offer aisle access and are similar to mediocre modern business class. Any improvement would be welcome.

El Al is welcoming its first 787 Dreamliner in August, with 16 total on order and options for more. These planes will replace El Al’s fleet of 747s and other aging aircraft. The first plane will begin service in September.

The airline recently held an event in Tel Aviv to reveal the new cabin interiors to travel agents and it seems that the rumors were dead-on.

Business class on El Al’s new planes will be in a 1-2-1 layout with flat-bed seats. Rather than a reverse herringbone set up like American, the planes will feature a staggered layout, which is slightly narrower.

El Al’s New 787 Business Class

If the seats look familiar, that’s because they are almost identical to United’s new Polaris seats.

Interestingly, one of United’s debut markets for Polaris is on its Newark-Tel Aviv flights. Should El Al bring its 787s to the American market, it will even the playing field considerably, and give El Al significant access to premium travelers, at least until Delta inaugurates its new enclosed-suite business class, which will be considerably more spacious.

El Al is using the new planes as an opportunity to introduce a new Premium Economy product as well, which will be in a 2-3-2 layout of seats similar to what you’d find in domestic first class, with 38″ of pitch. Pricing is yet to be announced, but this could represent a fantastic new opportunity for improved travel comfort to Israel from the US without the cost of business class. No other carrier with nonstop service from the US to Tel Aviv currently offers a Premium Economy cabin.

El Al’s New Premium Economy Cabin

The Economy Cabin, however, will represent a significant downgrade for El Al’s planes.

El Al’s New Economy Cabin

While flying 12+ hours in a 787 is intrinsically more comfortable than doing so on a 777 or 747, thanks to the higher humidity, greater air pressure, and quieter cabin, one strength of El Al has been that because its interiors are so old, they are one of the few remaining 777 cabins featuring a 9-across economy cabin.

The new Dreamliners, 16 inches narrower than the 777, will have the same amount of seats cross the airplane’s width, and each seat will only have 31″ of pitch, one inch less than on the 777 or 747. An inch may not sound like that much, but on a long ride it can mean the world. Presumably, these modern planes will have improved, more modern entertainment systems, but expect to be squeezed into an even smaller cage while you watch movies for 15 hours.

So, there you have it.

After my recent experience, I will continue to advise against flying El Al. There are just too many other good options, including United, British Air, Air Canada and others.

But if you need to fly El Al, there is good and bad coming with its new planes, especially if you can afford to snag yourself a seat in Premium Economy or Business.

What do you think about El Al’s new cabin interiors?