As reported in last week’s Jewish Voice, Israeli airline El Al recently announced that it will honor New York-Tel Aviv tickets it had mistakenly sold for just $330 to $400 round trip.
Such tickets typically run anywhere from $1,000 to $1,600 for coach-class seats. In addition, El Al said passengers who had booked the inexpensive fares with a stopover in Europe could rebook on a nonstop flight from New York for just $75 each way, according to the company’s Facebook page.
The airline said it sold at least 5,000 tickets at the mistakenly discounted fare, according to The Associated Press. For two hours on Monday, August 6, incorrect fares were published on a variety of travel Internet sites.
For those of you who did not buy one—or 20—of those golden tickets, there are still ways to find an inexpensive flight to Israel.
Sign up for deals and price alerts. According to the New York Post, sales of the low El Al tickets apparently escalated after word of the unintended bargain began to spread through New York’s Orthodox Jewish community thanks to an alert via Twitter from Dan’s Deals (www.dansdeals.com), a bargain-tracking website. Slickdeals (www. slickdeals.net) is another bargain-tracking website which mentioned the low fares.
Compare flights to Israel on fare consolidators and discounter web sites. Deals to Israel are listed on Fly.com, Kayak (www.kayak.com), Tripadvisor (www.tripadvisor.com), Bookingbuddy (www.bookingbuddy.com) and other popular brokerages. These sites compare hundreds of travel sites at once for the best price. I recently found a roundtrip to Israel for $894.00 leaving November 24th on Tripadvisor. In addition, some of the web sites have calendars that pop up to show you the difference in fare on other days.
Book your flight well ahead of time. Once you have the dates, book as soon as possible because the price increases as the departure date gets closer. I called a travel agent for a flight leaving in a week and there were no deals to be had –just a ticket for $1640 round trip. However, if you search hard enough (usually online) and you are very flexible with your dates and traveling with fewer than three people, you can get last-minute wholesale tickets.
Request middle-of-the-week departure and return dates to save even more. Avoid flying on Monday morning, Friday and Sunday evenings. Farecompare states that the cheapest time to fly is typically the first flight out in the morning. The next best times are flights during/after lunch and flights at the dinner hour (of course the absolute cheapest time to fly is on those limited routes with “red-eyes”).
Request stop-overs. Jill Zadik, a frequent flyer to Israel and New York, says she requests stopovers to save money. “I use my layover time to explore other countries such as Greece and Italy.” Tami Ofier, of Ofier Travel, a full-service travel agency, disagrees. “Since the increase of taxes and fuel, flying direct is the cheapest.” However, she explains that there are exceptions to that as well.
Fly during low-season. Still another way to obtain low-cost seats is to fly during low season which is during the winter. That again depends on different holidays and school breaks.
Zadik adds that contacting a travel agent is a good idea as well. “I receive great customer service and excellent discounts from Ideal Tours (www.idealtours.co.il.). From my experience they are always cheaper than any web site I have used.”
Travel specialists have been trained to find deals that even brokers aren’t aware of thanks to their relationships with the sales department of the airline carriers flying to and from Israel. Travel agents also have an extensive variety of private, specially negotiated contracts with the airlines.
Ofier adds that she has a personal relationship with El Al and works directly with them to find people the best fares. She also sells student tickets open for one year on El Al, which are unavailable on the Internet.
Ofier does not have a web site and usually works with people personally by phone at 718-261-6868 or through email, [email protected] “I put people on wait lists for lower fares and even seats. When I find a special I will call them. I am like…a fisherman, when something cancels, I grab it.”