EL AL Israel Airlines is moving from the absurd to the insane…and without advance notice.
EL AL either has a very high self-esteem or considers its Matmid loyalty customers to be a bunch of suckers. Redemption values have been historically poor, as has award space. For example, a one-way business class ticket from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv costs 3,500 Matmid points and about $200.
While EL AL Matmid is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, the transfer ratio is 50 AMEX for every 1 Matmid point. So that 3,500 one-way journey from LAX to TLV will set you back 175,000 points in business class.
You can book the same ticket with Qantas for 104,000 points…what do you think is a better deal?
But as if that was not bad enough already, EL AL is moving in a more dynamic direction for award travel pricing. Now, if your flight does not have “classic” award space (hereafter referred to as saver space), you can still buy it. But it will cost you…dearly.
Now hold that thought.
Horrible, Horrible Website
Pricing is one thing, the website is something else. While award charts are still published (for now), there is no longer a way to easily search for this “saver” award space on the EL AL website.
Instead, you now must use a single revenue/award search engine on the EL AL homepage which requires quite the acrobatics to actually find what you are looking for.
Here’s the catch. If you don’t have enough points in your account for a saver award, you’ll see far-higher dynamic pricing only.
Let’s return to our Los Angeles to Tel Aviv example. If you want to search for award space, you first log into your Matmid account, then slide the “Show prices in points & Award tickets” tab in the upper right hand corner of the flight search box.
I searched for LAX-TLV on Wednesday and these were the initial results:
Seriously, 14,613 Matmid points plus $446 for a one-way business class ticket? 14,613 Matmid points is 730,650 AMEX Membership Rewards points! #Delta_pricing
It is only when you make a selection and log in again and you have the sufficient points in your account already that the so-called saver level pricing shows, if available.
Why 2,975 instead of 3,500 in the screenshot above? EL-AL discounts awards slightly for Executive Members of the Matmid program or EL AL co-branded credit card holders. 2,975 Matmid points is still 148,750 AMEX MR points…
So to repeat, unless you have the points in your account already, you won’t know if there is saver seats available, at least not on the EL AL website.
Two Ways To Search For “Saver” Space
You can still search for saver award space on EL AL via two methods that are far easier than the trial and error process on EL AL’s website.
First, Qantas has an easy-to-use online search engine that shows EL AL award space.
Any space you see on Qantas should be bookable at saver/classic levels on the EL AL website. But, if you have AMEX points there is no need to even consider transferring to EL AL versus using Qantas.
Second, you can use Expert Flyer, which taps directly into EL AL’s system to let you know if saver awards are available.
But over time, those A, X, P, and E fare buckets could disappear or be rendered meaningless as EL AL considers a fully-dynamic model. Again, you won’t be able to even search the EL AL website for “Classic Awards” if you do not have sufficient points in your account.
While the EL AL Matmid loyalty program has never represented a particularly good value, the latest changes suggest a very dangerous devaluation on the horizon. I’m not telling you to go out and spend all your points today, but please be aware of the direction EL AL is moving in…all in the name of simplicity. If EL AL does pull saver award space and offer only dynamically-priced awards, an already-bad loyalty program will be laughably worthless.
What do you think of EL AL’s Matmid frequent flyer program?